This article has been reviewed according to Science X's editorial process and policies. Editors have highlighted the following attributes while ensuring the content's credibility:

fact-checked

peer-reviewed publication

trusted source

proofread

Fossil found in Germany shows starfish relative engaged in clonal fragmentation 150 million years ago

Fossil found in Germany shows starfish relative engaged in clonal fragmentation 150 million years ago
Credit: Günter Schweigert

A team of paleontologists from Germany and Austria reports that a brittle star fossil found in Germany shows evidence of clonal fragmentation (fissiparity) 150 million years ago. Their paper is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

In 2018, a team of excavators with State Museum of Natural History Stuttgart uncovered a brittle star fossil in a limestone deposit at a dig site in Germany. It was in excellent condition—minute details of its anatomy could be easily seen. It has since been named Ophiactis hex.

For this new study, the research team examined the fossil and found that the starfish relative lived approximately 150 million years ago, during the late Jurassic. They also discovered that it was in the process of regenerating three of its arms when it died.

Brittle stars are echinoderms, that also include , and starfish. Prior research has shown that many species of brittle stars are capable of reproducing by splitting off parts of their body, both of which then regenerate, resulting in two distinct clonal creatures, a process known as clonal fragmentation.

The researchers note that although many studies have been done on clonal fragmentation, very little has been done on its evolutionary history in brittle stars.

  • Fossil found in Germany shows starfish relative engaged in clonal fragmentation 150 million years ago
    Credit: Günter Schweigert
  • Fossil found in Germany shows starfish relative engaged in clonal fragmentation 150 million years ago
    Credit: Günter Schweigert

The work was based mostly on luck—the ancient brittle star was found during a random dig. But finding it was important, they note, because it shows that the of clonal fragmentation in goes back at least 150 million years.

The research team determined that the creature had been in the middle of regenerating arms because the three new ones were much thinner and clearly less mature than the other three as evidenced by the difference in the growth of sharp spines.

They also note that it is the first such fossil evidence of its kind ever found. Brittle stars are known to live in dense colonies, suggesting that more specimens may be found at the same dig site.

More information: Ben Thuy et al, Fossil evidence for the ancient link between clonal fragmentation, six-fold symmetry and an epizoic lifestyle in asterozoan echinoderms, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (2024). DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2023.2832. royalsocietypublishing.org/doi … .1098/rspb.2023.2832

© 2024 Science X Network

Citation: Fossil found in Germany shows starfish relative engaged in clonal fragmentation 150 million years ago (2024, May 15) retrieved 21 May 2024 from https://phys.org/news/2024-05-fossil-germany-starfish-engaged-clonal.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Explore further

Oldest known samples of brittle stars from supercontinent Gondwana discovered in South Africa

132 shares

Feedback to editors