New Fossil Species Belongs to a Group of Extant Starfish-Like Creatures Living in the Deep Sea Today

Related Articles

Related Articles

Palaeontologists from the Natural History Museums in Luxembourg and Maastricht have discovered a previously unknown species of brittle star that lived in the shallow, warm sea which covered parts of the present-day Netherlands at the end of the Dinosaur Era.

The starfish-like creature was unearthed more than 20 years ago but has only now been identified as new to science. The name of the new fossil pays tribute to Dutch metal vocalist Floor Jansen, in recognition of the mutual inspiration between science and music.

Like so many exciting discoveries, the new fossil species had long passed unnoticed. It was a stroke of luck when a fossil collector noted the fossil of a tiny, starfish-like creature during one of his excursions to the world-famous ENCI HeidelbergCement company quarry near the Dutch city of Maastricht. The specimen was much smaller than other brittle-star fossils occasionally found at the same locality and thus much less likely to be collected.

 

Dr John Jagt, palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum in Maastricht, soon identified the specimen as a long-spined brittle-star. “I reckoned the specimen belonged to a group of brittle-stars that is particularly rare in the fossil record but its true identity remained puzzling with the information at hand”, Jagt explains. “When examining microfossils extracted from the same rocks that yielded the brittle-star fossil, I noticed microscopic skeletal fragments that seemed to belong to the same species”, he continues.

20 years later, Jagt was proved right when Dr Ben Thuy and Dr Lea Numberger, palaeontologists at the Natural History Museum in Luxembourg, examined the brittle-star fossils from Maastricht from a different angle, taking into account the latest progress of knowledge in the field. “We were incredibly lucky to have both microscopic skeletal remains and a complete fossil skeleton of the same brittle-star species,” Thuy highlights. “This provided an exceptionally complete picture of the species” Numberger continues.

That the species turned out to be new to science was exciting in itself but there was more: “The new brittle star must have lived in a shallow, warm sea while its living relatives are found in the deep sea. This shows that there was a major shift in distribution over the past million years,” Thuy explains.

The experts were even able to gain insights into the mode of life of the new species. “Because the fossil individual was found wrapped around the stalk of a sea lily, we assume that the species lived with and probably even clung to these flower-like echinoderms,” Jagt remarks. Interactions or associations between species are only rarely preserved in the fossil record. When scientists discover a new species, they have the privilege to name it. Often, species names refer to a locality or a specific character. Some also honour other experts in the field. In the case of the Maastricht brittle star, Jagt, Thuy and Numberger decided to combine their passions for fossils and heavy metal music and paid tribute to Dutch metal vocalist Floor Jansen and her band Nightwish. “Rock music and fossils are a perfect match.

PEERJ

Header Image Credit : Dr Ben Thuy

Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic

LATEST NEWS

Château Gaillard – Richard the Lionheart’s Castle

Construction of the castle began in 1196 by King Richard I, also known as Richard the Lionheart - who ruled as King of England and held the Dukedom of Normandy, as well as several other territories.

Geoscientists Discovers Causes of Sudden Volcanic Eruptions

Tiny crystals, ten thousand times thinner than a human hair, can cause explosive volcanic eruptions.

Specimens From Ice Age Provide Clues to Origin of Pack-Hunting in Modern Wolves

Wolves today live and hunt in packs, which helps them take down large prey. But when did this group behavior evolve?

Remnants Ancient Asteroid Shed New Light on the Early Solar System

Researchers have shaken up a once accepted timeline for cataclysmic events in the early solar system.

Chromium Steel Was First Made in Ancient Persia

Chromium steel - similar to what we know today as tool steel - was first made in Persia, nearly a millennium earlier than experts previously thought, according to a new study led by UCL researchers.

Artaxata – “The Armenian Carthage”

Artaxata, meaning "joy of Arta" was an ancient city and capital of the Kingdom of Armenia in the Ararat Province of Armenia.

New Funerary & Ritual Behaviors of the Neolithic Iberian Populations Discovered

Experts from the Department of Prehistory and Archaeology of the University of Seville have just published a study in the prestigious journal PLOS ONE on an important archaeological find in the Cueva de la Dehesilla (Cádiz).

The Great Wall of Gorgan

The Great Wall of Gorgan, also called the "The Red Snake" or “Alexander's Barrier” is the second-longest defensive wall (after the Great Wall of China), which ran for 121 miles from a narrowing between the Caspian Sea north of Gonbade Kavous (ancient Gorgan, or Jorjan in Arabic) and the Pishkamar mountains of north-eastern Iran.

Popular stories

The Secret Hellfire Club and the Hellfire Caves

The Hellfire Club was an exclusive membership-based organisation for high-society rakes, that was first founded in London in 1718, by Philip, Duke of Wharton, and several of society's elites.

Port Royal – The Sodom of the New World

Port Royal, originally named Cagway was an English harbour town and base of operations for buccaneers and privateers (pirates) until the great earthquake of 1692.

Matthew Hopkins – The Real Witch-Hunter

Matthew Hopkins was an infamous witch-hunter during the 17th century, who published “The Discovery of Witches” in 1647, and whose witch-hunting methods were applied during the notorious Salem Witch Trials in colonial Massachusetts.

Did Corn Fuel Cahokia’s Rise?

A new study suggests that corn was the staple subsistence crop that allowed the pre-Columbian city of Cahokia to rise to prominence and flourish for nearly 300 years.