Posted: 00:01 GMT, 20 January 2021 | Update: 00h01 GMT, the 20 January 2021
Une étoile de mer fossile déterrée au Maroc qui remonte à 480 million years is a “ missing link ” between modern crinoids and their ancestors, according to a study
Cambridge experts said the fossil – discovered in the so-called Fezouata shale of the Anti-Atlas mountain range – is the oldest known starfish.
It goes back to a period in the history of the Earth – the so-called Ordovician biodiversification event – when life suddenly spread
The former candidate for the oldest starfish specimen on record had 50 million years younger, said the researchers.
Given the scientific name «Cantabrigiaster fezouataensis», l’espèce ancienne a une conception complexe, with feathery arms still visible in its fossil specimens
The beautifully preserved remains will allow paleontologists to map the body of the new species in detail and shed light on the evolution of starfish
A fossil starfish (photo) discovery in Morocco dating back to 480 million years is a «missing link» between modern crinoids and their ancestors, reported a study
«Finding this missing link with their ancestors is incredibly exciting», said evolutionary paleoecologist Aaron Hunter of Cambridge University.
‘If you go back in time and put your head under the sea in the Ordovician, you will not recognize any of the marine organisms – except for the starfish, they are one of the first modern animals’
According to the researchers, C fezouataensis does not have about 60% characteristics of the body plan of a modern starfish – more like a hybrid between a starfish and a crinoid, or “ light them more ”
Water lilies are wavy-armed filter feeders that resemble plants in that they are attached to the sea floor via a «rod» cylindrical
“ The level of detail of the fossil is incredible – its structure is so complex that it took us some time to understand its meaning ”, said Dr Hunter.
In their study, Dr Hunter and his colleague Javier Ortega-Hernandez – previously also from Cambridge, now based at Harvard University in the United States – examined a catalog of hundreds of starfish-like animals alongside C fezouataensis
They listed all of their body characteristics in order to assess how the fossil species related to other members of the «echinoderms» – a diverse group including sea cucumbers and starfish.
Like most modern species, the fossil has quintuple symmetry – but this ancestral shape had broad arms which almost had a pentagonal outline
Cantabrigiaster fezouataensis dates back to a period in the history of the Earth – the so-called Ordovician biodiversification event – when life suddenly spread
According to the researchers, C fezouataensis does not have about 60% characteristics of the body plan of a modern starfish – rather resembling a hybrid between a starfish and a “ light them more ”
“One thing we hope to answer in the future is why starfish have developed their five arms”, commented Dr Hunter.
‘It seems like a stable form for them to adopt – but we do not yet know why’
‘We have to keep looking for the fossil that gives us this special connection – but going directly back to the first ancestors like Cantabrigiaster, we are getting closer to this answer’
«Finding this missing link with their ancestors is incredibly exciting», said evolutionary paleoecologist Aaron Hunter of Cambridge University. On the picture, researchers look for starfish fossils in the Fezouata shale (to the left) from the Anti-Atlas mountains (to the right)
Cambridge experts said the fossil – discovered in a place (highlighted) dans le soi-disant schiste de Fezouata de la chaîne de montagnes de l’Anti-Atlas – is the oldest known starfish
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Étoile de mer, fossile, échinoderme, crinoïdes, research, évolution, Morocco
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