Remember Jurassic Park? The film where a prehistoric mosquito was harvested for the dinosaur DNA in its gut. Perhaps a little far fetched and fantastical, perfect for entertaining the masses yet a stone's throw from real science, it's unlikely that anyone will be able to breed a prehistoric creature from ancient DNA. Who knows though, seemingly impossible things are achieved all the time. Just picture yourself reading this article on your device. Unbelievable eh?
This time, real scientists have discovered an actual prehistoric mini-beast encapsulated in ancient amber. Just like the film! And also, much like the film, this item gives us a 3D perfect biological image of something that has been extinct for millennia. No fancy tricks with expensive special effects in mock-up biotechnology labs, this time it's the creature inside that is causing all the fuss. Is it a spider? You decide. What's the evidence? It has 8 legs and it carries complicated web spinning apparatus. The only other point is that this creature also sports a large tail. Huh? Spiders have abdomens but not long tails, do they? Well maybe there once was a spider that did. Or maybe this creature predates modern spiders and although an arachnid, cannot be called after its modern most adapted example.
Scientists are up in arms over the debate. Biologists the world over can't get enough of this world famous eight legged spidery ancestor. There are in fact two preserved fossils of the creature, named Chimerarachne yingi, and they have been extensively studied by scientists from Harvard and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The jury is out on this specimen, either the last member of a long tailed arachnid family thought to have died out around 100 million years ago or a new type of early spider not previously known, the biology of the animal undoubtedly sheds light on the evolutionary process which gave rise to our fly eating friends.
Discovered in Myanmar, the controversial creature has been causing a stir in the web of knowledge. Whether or not the world should care more about the Rohingya crisis between Bangladesh and the home of this fantastic fossil is another story. In either case, it is good to know.
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