The chelicerata originated as marine animals, possibly in the Cambrian period, but the first confirmed chelicerate fossils, eurypterids, date from 445 million years ago in the Late Ordovician period. The surviving marine species include the four species of xiphosurans (horseshoe crabs), and possibly the 1,300 species of pycnogonids (sea spiders), if the latter are indeed chelicerates. On the other hand, there are over 77,000 well-identified species of air-breathing chelicerates, and there may be about 500,000 unidentified species. Like all arthropods, chelicerates have segmented bodies with jointed limbs, all covered in a cuticle made of chitin and proteins. The chelicerate bauplan consists of two tagmata, the prosoma and the opisthosoma, except that mites have lost a visible division between these sections. The chelicerae, which give the group its name, are the only appendages that appear before the mouth. In most sub-groups, they are modest pincers used to feed. However, spiders' chelicerae form fangs that most species use to inject venom into prey. The group has the open circulatory system typical of arthropods, in which a tube-like heart pumps blood through the hemocoel, which is the major body cavity. Marine chelicerates have gills, while the air-breathing forms generally have both book lungs and tracheae. In general the ganglia of living chelicerates' central nervous systems fuse into large masses in the cephalothorax, but there are wide variations and this fusion is very limited in the Mesothelae, which are regarded as the oldest and most primitive group of spiders. Most chelicerates rely on modified bristles for touch and for information about vibrations, air currents, and chemical changes in their environment. The most active hunting spiders also have very acute eyesight.
Arachnida - Includes orders Acari, Amblypygi, Araneae, Opiliones, Palpigradi, Pseudoscorpiones, Ricinulei, Schizomida, Scorpiones, Solifugae, Thelyphonida, †Trigonotarbida, †Uraraneida, †Haptopoda and †Phalangiotarbi.
Pycnogonida - Includes order Pantopoda.
Merostomata - Includes orders Xiphosura and †Eurypterida.