Giant Spider Fossil Bought By Museum Turns Out to Be a CRAYFISH!

Palaeontologists at the Dalian Natural History Museum in China bought the fossil from a cheeky farmer and described it as a new species in the peer-reviewed journal of the Geological Society of China earlier this year. 

But the new find, which was christened Mongolarachne chaoyangensis, left some scientists suspicious, including Dr. Paul Selden, professor of invertebrate palaeontology at the University of Kansas.

Dr Selden uncovered the hoax after being alerted to the fossil by colleagues in Beijing and has now detailed his detective work in a new paper.

'As soon as I looked at the specimen it was obvious it was not a spider there were too many segments at the base of the legs, there was no sternum, and the huge eyes were just weird,' he said.

'I imagine the person who found it, maybe a local farmer, thought it looked a bit like a spider.

'That gave him or her the idea of adding some legs and enhancing the abdomen, thus turning it from a poor fossil to a rather more spectacular one, with greater sale value.'

It remains unclear what the Dalian Natural History Museum paid for the fossil.

After examining the fossil himself, Dr Selden got his colleague, Alison Olcott, and a PhD student, Matt Downen, to study it with fluorescence microscopy and discern the faked parts from the real.

Dr Selden was part of the team that first studied and classified the Mongolarachne type species the species on which a genus is based known as Mongolarachne jurassica. 

'The legs were painted on quite skilfully,' he said.

'After tweaking the system a bit, they were eventually able to distinguish paint from specimen from rock from filled-in cracks.'

Dr Selden sent a drawing of the fossil with the erroneous legs removed to a colleague, Chung Kun, who said that it reminded him of the crayfish common in the Yixian Formation at the particular locality where the spider was found Western Liaoning, China.

'It became clear that it was a poorly preserved specimen of a crayfish, most likely the commoner of the two species from that locality, Cricoidoscelosus aethus.'

'Not being arachnologists, the first describers were taken in by its superficial appearance as a spider,' he said.

They concluded that it belonged to Mongolarachne the extinct genus of spiders and the largest fossilised spider on record mainly because of its size.

Source: dailymail

Editor: Crystal H


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