I have a tendency towards the nostalgic. Quite independent of circumstance, there’s very often a part of me that’s tempted by the fallacious notion that Things Were Better, and sometimes it takes a fair amount of clear-sighted rational persuasion to allay those tendencies.
Well it looks like that persuasion now has a natural ally, because scientists have found a thing preserved in amber that proves once and for all that the past was not better, but was in fact an evil and hostile wasteland full of Lovecraftian terror. Seriously, in terms of fauna, the past compared to the present is basically what Australia is to Kent. Whereas nowadays we have (presumably) delicious infinite crayfish, the Past had…this:
Photo courtesy of Yahoo News
WHY IS THIS?!
About 100 million years ago, this little fella was creeping his way across a tree in Myanmar when the tree did that thing trees sometimes do where it’s like, ‘Oh look, a weird thing crawling on me! I know! People in the future are gonna love this!’ [squirts golden preservajizz all over crawling thing]
And we do. We can’t get enough of stumbling upon things that have been preserved in amber. Especially things that should have never been preserved. Why even have mass extinction events if you’re gonna leave shit like this lying around for god’s sake.
But find it we did, and the mad lads and ladettes over at the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, have been quite excited about it. Like all great finds they have named it after a monstrous Greek myth—in this case Chimerarachne yingi, after the fire-breathing hybrid beast which Homer described in The Iliad thus:
a thing of immortal make, not human, lion-fronted and snake behind, a goat in the middle, and snorting out the breath of the terrible flame of bright fire.
Which, yeah. Pretty awful. But then again nature’s like: ‘Hold my beer.’
Scientists are quite excited about the Chimerarachne yingi because it’s giving them heretofore unseen glimpses into the evolutionary history of arachnids. You see, modern spiders have fangs, and spinneretes—which isn’t a name for a cheerleading troupe, but in fact the term for those lovely appendages they use to spin their super silk. Scorpions, on the other hand, lack those features. To make up for that they have a tail. Now it seems we may have found an evolutionary intermediate form which had the whole lot. Isn’t nature beautiful?
But I know you’ve got two burning questions, and they’re likely the same ones I had, so I will answer them now.
Number 1: Size. Don’t worry, the Chimerarachne yingi was only 2.5 millimetres across.
Number 2: No, we still do not know whether it was a direct descendant of the Sligs from the Oddworld games.
But probably yes.