A 150 million year old marine fossil named after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
KATOWICE, Poland — A 150 million year old marine invertebrate discovered in Africa is named after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The bizarre creature had 10 long arms and sharp tentacle-like claws to grip the seabed.
The animal, named Ausichicrinites zelenskyyi, is closely related to starfish, sea cucumbers and sea urchins. It was a type of feathered star found in abundance today on rocky seabeds from the equator to the poles.
“The fossil is extraordinarily preserved,” said lead author Professor Mariusz Salamon, from the University of Silesia in Poland, in a statement carried by South West News Service. “Ausichicrinites zelenskyyi had 10 massive arms and a ring of claw-like appendages near the base for gripping the substrate.”
Salmon adds that the creature was named in honor of Zelensky “for his courage and bravery in the defense of free Ukraine”.
Feather stars can be a variety of spectacular colors, from deep reds to vibrant oranges and electrifying yellows. Each arm can be up to a foot long. Their appendages are used to catch food, which makes them filter-feeding animals. They sit in the water, expose their arms and let the nutrients carried by the current come to them.
Feathered stars also have the ability to drop an arm like some lizards can their tail, which is also an anti-predator response.
“The specimen shows evidence of regeneration, which supports the hypothesis about the importance of predation in the evolution of feathered stars,” says Salamon.
Ausichicrinites zelenskyyi measured about two inches in diameter. His nearly complete remains were unearthed at a site in west-central Ethiopia.
“Feathered stars, or comatulids, are primarily known from highly disarticulated specimens,” the authors write in their paper. “Here we report a nearly complete, and therefore extremely rare, comatulid from the Upper Jurassic of the Blue Nile Basin in west-central Ethiopia that provides unique insight into the morphology of comatulid arms and claws.”
The new fossil is thought to be the first example of regeneration in a feathered star.
Born with a stem that they lose as adults, feathered stars can have as few as five arms and as many as 200. They are often quite visible to snorkelers and snorkelers. They are not poisonous to humans, but can be poisonous to other animals.
Snails often live on it. Fish can scour feathered stars in search of a tasty meal.
Feathered stars are echinoderms, like the more familiar starfish. They are also a type of crinoid, along with sea lilies, which have a stem.
Ausichicrinites zelenskyyi is described in the journal of the Royal Society Open Science.
Reporting by South West News Service editor Mark Waghorn.