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Fossil arachnids date back more than 400 million years to the Silurian period, making them one of the first animal groups to appear in terrestrial ecosystems. However, despite significant progress in the discovery and description of fossil arachnids in recent years there has been no basic overview of the arachnid fossil record published in a broadly accessible format. Previous studies were largely published in specialist academic journals or monograph series. There has never been a book dedicated to the fossils of this often maligned and neglected group of animals, suitable for students of biology or geology looking for basic palaeontological information; or for arachnologists interested in what their favourite animals were like millions of years ago.
In Fossil Arachnids the authors provide up-to-date background information on what the arachnids are, their relationships to one another, and how fossils may be relevant to these debates. For each individual order – spiders, scorpions, harvestmen, etc. – the authors have summarized their typical characteristics. This should help with the identification of newly discovered fossils from both amber and rock deposits. Related to this, the authors have provided generous high quality photographic illustrations which highlight the appearance and diversity of these animals, the different ways in which they can become fossilized, and their sometimes astonishing quality of preservation. Modern imaging techniques in particular are revealing specimens in new and exciting ways. The authors discuss the probable ecology of the extinct species based on the interpretation of their morphology and the behaviour of their living relatives. They also highlight important palaeontological studies, and offer an extensive repertoire of further reading. They hope Fossil Arachnids will be of interest both to arachnologists and palaeontologists, and that it will serve as a reference work for biologists interested in the evolutionary history of spiders and their many relatives.