Thursday, 10 July 2014

Ancient arachnid 'walks again'

By Jonathan AmosScience correspondent, BBC News

The dead walk again: an arachnid that lived 410 million years ago has crawled back into the virtual world.

The creature's remains were so well preserved in fossil form that scientists could see all its leg joints, allowing them to recreate its likely gait using computer graphics.

Known as a trigonotarbid, the animal was one of the first predators on land.

Its prey were probably early flightless insects and other invertebrates, which it would run down and jump on.

"We know quite a bit about how it lived," said Russell Garwood, a palaeontologist with the University of Manchester, UK.

"We can see from its mouth parts that it pre-orally digested its prey - something that most arachnids do - because it has a special filtering plate in its mouth. So, that makes us fairly sure it vomited digestive enzymes on to its prey and then sucked up liquid food," he told BBC News.

The trigonotarbid specimens studied by Dr Garwood and colleagues are just a few millimetres in length.

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