From the collections room (starfish)

If you follow this blog regularly, you know that in 2007 VMNH moved into a new building. With a collection of tens of millions of specimens (remember, we have more than just fossils) some things get shuffled around and end up in the wrong place.

This morning Elizabeth Moore, our archaeologist, was going through some of her collections and came across a tray of specimens that were very obviously not human artifacts, so she brought them down the hall to the paleo lab. The specimens turned out to be fossiliferous fragments from the Ordovician Martinsburg Shale, from a locality in Pennsylvania. Most of these were fragments of trilobites, with a few graptolites and brachiopods thrown into the mix, but one piece contained an impression of a starfish. Starfish are soft-bodied and as a result are quite rare as fossils; I think this is the only starfish in our collection that is older than Miocene.

Just skimming through the literature, this starfish looks pretty close to Urasterella. Other possibilities include Hudsonaster and the recently described Embolaster, but Urasterella seems a closer match when compared to the excellent images in Blake 2008.


Blake, D. B., 2008. A new Ordovician asteroid (Echinodermata) with somasteroid-like skeletal elements. Journal of Paleontology 82:645-656.


With the retirement this year of Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology Buck Ward, and my recent title change to Associate Curator, my responsibilities have expanded to include all of VMNH’s fossil collections, both vertebrates and invertebrates (Buck is now Curator Emeritus, and continues to actively work on the invertebrate collections). As a result of this change, I’m going to expand the “Collections Room” series to include our huge invertebrate fossil collection.

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