Understanding the genealogical relationships among the arachnid orders is an onerous task, but fossils have aided in anchoring some branches of the arachnid tree of life. The discovery of Palaeozoic fossils with characters found in both extant spiders and other arachnids provided evidence for a series of extinctions of what was thought to be a grade, Uraraneida, that led to modern spiders. Here, we report two extraordinarily well-preserved Mesozoic members of Uraraneida with a segmented abdomen, multi-articulate spinnerets with well-defined spigots, modified male palps, spider-like chelicerae and a uropygid-like telson. The new fossils, belonging to the species Chimerarachne yingi, were analysed phylogenetically in a large data matrix of extant and extinct arachnids under a diverse regime of analytical conditions, most of which resulted in placing Uraraneida as the sister clade of Araneae (spiders). The phylogenetic placement of this arachnid fossil extends the presence of spinnerets and modified palps more basally in the arachnid tree than was previously thought. Ecologically, the new fossil extends the record of Uraraneida 170 million years towards the present, thus showing that uraraneids and spiders co-existed for a large fraction of their evolutionary history.
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $8.67 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Wheeler, W. C. et al. The spider tree of life: phylogeny of Araneae based on target-gene analyses from an extensive taxon sampling. Cladistics 33, 574–616 (2017).
Dunlop, J. A. Geological history and phylogeny of Chelicerata. Arthropod Struct. Dev. 39, 124–142 (2010).
Garrison, N. L. et al. Spider phylogenomics: untangling the spider tree of life. PeerJ 4, e1719 (2016).
Shear, W. A., Palmer, J. M., Coddington, J. A. & Bonamo, P. M. A Devonian spinneret: early evidence of spiders and silk use. Science 246, 479–481 (1989).
Selden, P. A., Shear, W. A. & Bonamo, P. M. A spider and other arachnids from the Devonian of New York, and reinterpretations of Devonian Araneae. Palaeontology 34, 241–281 (1991).
Selden, P. A., Shear, W. A. & Sutton, M. D. Fossil evidence for the origin of spider spinnerets, and a proposed arachnid order. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 105, 20781–20785 (2008).
Garwood, R. J. et al. Almost a spider: a 305-million-year-old fossil arachnid and spider origins. Proc. R. Soc. B Biol. Sci. 283, 20160125 (2016).
Eskov, K. Y. & Selden, P. A. First record of spiders from the Permian period (Araneae: Mesothelae). Bull. Br. Arachnol. Soc. 13, 111–116 (2005).
Selden, P. A. A redescription of Juraraneus rasnitsyni Eskov, 1984 (Araneae: Juraraneidae), from the Jurassic of Russia. Bull. Br. Arachnol. Soc. 15, 315–321 (2012).
Shear, W. A., Selden, P. A., Rolfe, W. D. I., Bonamo, P. M. & Grierson, J. D. New terrestrial arachnids from the Devonian of Gilboa, New York (Arachnida, Trigonotarbida). Am. Mus. Novit. 2901, 1–74 (1987).
Giribet, G., Edgecombe, G. D., Wheeler, W. C. & Babbitt, C. Phylogeny and systematic position of Opiliones: a combined analysis of chelicerate relationships using morphological and molecular data. Cladistics 18, 5–70 (2002).
Garwood, R. J., Dunlop, J. A., Giribet, G. & Sutton, M. D. Anatomically modern Carboniferous harvestmen demonstrate early cladogenesis and stasis in Opiliones. Nat. Commun. 2, 444 (2011).
Garwood, R. J., Dunlop, J. A., Knecht, B. J. & Hegna, T. A. The phylogeny of fossil whip spiders. BMC Evol. Biol. 17, 105 (2017).
Wang, B. et al. Cretaceous arachnid Chimerarachne yingi gen. et sp. nov. illuminates spider origins. Nat. Ecol. Evol. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-017-0449-3 (2018).
Ross, A., Mellish, C., York, P. & Crighton, B. in Biodiversity of Fossil in Amber from the Major World Deposits (ed. Penney, D.) 208–235 (Siri Scientific Press, Rochdale, 2010).
Shi, G. et al. Age constraint on Burmese amber based on U–Pb dating of zircons. Cretac. Res. 37, 155–163 (2012).
Prendini, L. Species or supraspecific taxa as terminals in cladistic analysis? Groundplans versus exemplars revisited. Syst. Biol. 50, 290–300 (2001).
Shultz, J. W. A phylogenetic analysis of the arachnid orders based on morphological characters. Zool. J. Linn. Soc. 150, 221–265 (2007).
Garwood, R. J. & Dunlop, J. Three-dimensional reconstruction and the phylogeny of extinct chelicerate orders. PeerJ 2, e641 (2014).
Xu, X. et al. A genus-level taxonomic review of primitively segmented spiders (Mesothelae, Liphistiidae). ZooKeys 488, 121–151 (2015).
Giribet, G. & Dunlop, J. A. First identifiable Mesozoic harvestman (Opiliones: Dyspnoi) from Cretaceous Burmese amber. Proc. R. Soc. B Biol. Sci. 272, 1007–1013 2005).
Poinar, G. in Advances in Arachnology and Developmental Biology. Papers Dedicated to Prof. Dr. Bozidar Curcic Vol. Monographs, 12 (eds Makarov, S. E. & Dimitrijevic, R. N.) 267–274 (Inst. Zool., Belgrade; BAS, Sofia; Fac. Life Sci., Vienna; SASA, Belgrade and UNESCO MAB Serbia, 2008).
Engel, M. S. et al. The first Mesozoic microwhip scorpion (Palpigradi): a new genus and species in mid-Cretaceous amber from Myanmar. Sci. Nat. 103, 19 (2016).
Dunlop, J. A., Bird, T. L., Brookhart, J. O. & Bechly, G. A camel spider from Cretaceous Burmese amber. Cretac. Res. 56, 265–273 (2015).
Henderickx, H. & Boone, M. The basal pseudoscorpion family Feaellidae Ellingsen, 1906 walks the earth for 98.000.000 years: a new fossil genus has been found in Cretaceous Burmese amber (Pseudoscorpiones: Feaellidae). Publicatie 27, 7–12 (2016).
Selden, P. A., Dunlop, J. A., Giribet, G., Zhang, W. & Ren, D. The oldest armoured harvestman (Arachnida: Opiliones: Laniatores), from Upper Cretaceous Myanmar amber. Cretaceous Res. 65, 206–212 (2016).
Cai, C. & Huang, D. A new genus of whip-scorpions in Upper Cretaceous Burmese amber: earliest fossil record of the extant subfamily Thelyphoninae (Arachnida: Thelyphonida: Thelyphonidae). Cretaceous Res. 69, 100–105 (2017).
Wunderlich, J. Description of the first fossil Ricinulei in amber from Burma (Myanmar), the first report of this arachnid order from the Mesozoic and from Asia, with notes on the related extinct order Trigonotarbida. Beitr. Zur. Araneol. 7, 233–244 (2012).
Selden, P. A. & Ren, D. A review of Burmese amber arachnids. J. Arachnol. 45, 324–343 (2017).
Murienne, J., Benavides, L. R., Prendini, L., Hormiga, G. & Giribet, G. Forest refugia in Western and Central Africa as ‘museums’ of Mesozoic biodiversity. Biol. Lett. 9, 20120932 (2013).
Selden, P. A. First fossil mesothele spider, from the Carboniferous of France. Rev. Suisse Zool. 2, 585–596 (1996).
Wolfe, J. M., Daley, A. C., Legg, D. A. & Edgecombe, G. D. Fossil calibrations for the arthropod tree of life. Earth-Sci. Rev. 160, 43–110 (2016).
Goloboff, P. A. & Catalano, S. A. TNT version 1.5, including a full implementation of phylogenetic morphometrics. Cladistics 32, 221–238 (2016).
Goloboff, P. A. Estimating character weights during tree search. Cladistics 9, 83–91 (1993).
Goloboff, P. A. Extended implied weighting. Cladistics 30, 260–272 (2014).
Ronquist, F. et al. MrBayes 3.2: efficient Bayesian phylogenetic inference and model choice across a large model space. Syst. Biol. 61, 539–542 (2012).
Lewis, P. O. A likelihood approach to estimating phylogeny from discrete morphological character data. Syst. Biol. 50, 913–925 (2001).
Financial support was provided by the Strategic Priority Research Program (B) (XDB18000000) and the programme Macroevolutionary Processes and Palaeoenvironments of Major Historical Biota (XDPB05) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41688103 and 91514302) and US National Science Foundation grants 1457300 (to G.H.) and 1457539 (to G.G.) (Collaborative Research: Phylogeny and diversification of the orb weaving spiders (Araneae)). We are grateful to J. Sun for reconstruction and S. Wu for micro computed tomography assistance. Published by a grant from the Wetmore Colles fund.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Huang, D., Hormiga, G., Cai, C. et al. Origin of spiders and their spinning organs illuminated by mid-Cretaceous amber fossils. Nat Ecol Evol 2, 623–627 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-018-0475-9
Developmental gene expression as a phylogenetic data class: support for the monophyly of Arachnopulmonata
Development Genes and Evolution (2020)
Current Biology (2019)
Ordered phylogenomic subsampling enables diagnosis of systematic errors in the placement of the enigmatic arachnid order Palpigradi
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (2019)
Exploring the impact of morphology, multiple sequence alignment and choice of optimality criteria in phylogenetic inference: a case study with the Neotropical orb-weaving spider genus Wagneriana (Araneae: Araneidae)
Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society (2019)
Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution (2019)