Crepidosoma doyleii: This New Species of Brittle Star Lived 435 Million Years Ago
Scientists say the fossilized remains of a brittle star that lived 435 million years ago belong to a new species.
The fossil was named Crepidosoma doyleii, after the paleontologist who discovered it. Eamon Doyle was a Ph.D. student when he discovered the remains of the thumbnail-sized creature in the late 1980s, embedded in a layer of fossils on a hillside in the Maam Valley in Ireland.
Though this species of brittle star (which are closely related to starfish) first developed nearly half a billion years ago, its modern day descendants are remarkably similar.
This particular species was a marine scavenger and lived through continental shifts, oceans rising and draining, and the extinction of the dinosaurs. The brittle star that Doyle found most likely lived in the ocean over what's now Ireland, which disappeared after tectonic plate shifts.
Researchers published their findings on Crepidosoma doyleii this month in the Irish Journal of Earth Sciences.
According to Doyle, this brittle star is incredibly resilient — it was around during the Silurian period, when the first land plants evolved.
The discovery is significant because it's a "key piece of evidence in the hunt for past life in the ocean that covered Ireland," David Harper, a paleontologist at Durham University and co-author of the study, told the Irish Times.
The fossil will be put on display at the National Museum of Ireland.