A computer reconstruction of Haliestes (artificially colored, above), and a modern sea spider, Nymphon (bleached, below), which is about 50% larger, and with longer legs.
Volcanic ash that encased and preserved sea life in the Silurian age 425 million years ago near Herefordshire, UK has yielded fossils of an ancient sea spider, or pycnogonid, one of the most unusual types of arthropod in the seas today.
Sea spiders are soft-bodied arthropods, found widely in modern oceans. For two-centuries there has been a controversy about the relationship of sea spiders to land spiders, scorpions, ticks and mites because of their unique body form. Sea spiders have a long proboscis and unusual limb structures used in mating and carrying brooding embryos. The fossil record of their relationship is sparse because of their delicate nature.
"This is the earliest adult fossil example, and it is preserved in extraordinary detail," said author Derek Briggs, professor of geology and geophysics, and Director of the Yale Institute of Biospheric Studies. "Volcanic ash that trapped ancient sea life in this location rapidly encased the creatures making a concrete-like cast of the bodies. The cavity later filled in with carbonate solids so we have a fossil record to study now."
Janet Rettig Emanuel | EurekAlert!
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