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Palaeontology Seminar

Thursday 4th October
Neil Chalmers Seminar Room, DC2, 16:00

A star performance from a fossil show: Terminaster megaungulus, a new species of forcipulatid Asteroid from the Lower Cretaceous (Aptian) of Morocco and its significance



Dr. Timothy A. M. Ewin, Earth Sciences, The Natural History Museum


Since 2011, staff from the palaeontological section of The Natural History Museum, have joined their mineralogical counterparts at commercial mineral and fossil shows. It was at the Munich 2011 show that 11 blocks containing over 40 articulated starfish specimens, from the Lower Cretaceous of Agadir, Morocco, were purchased.


Articulated fossil starfish are rare but vital for classification and elucidating higher taxonomy. As such, any new material is of significance. Furthermore, the phylogeny of post Palaeozoic asteroids is controversial, with two competing hypothesis as to the position of the extant orders Forcipulatida and Paxillosida. Which have both been regarded as either basal or derived. The material has enabled the description of a new species, Terminaster megaungulus n. sp., which was classified as the second member of the recently erected family Terminasteridae Gale 2012. The position of the Terminasteridae has been controversial, however the new material supports a stem-ward position of this family within the Forcipulatida. Furthermore, this material will provide vital new characters (particularly the pedicellaria) to inform the position of the Order Forcipulatida within post Palaeozoic Asteroids. This discovery also greatly expands the stratigraphical and geographical range of this characteristic family.


This project is therefore a great example of the type of significant material that can be purchased at these shows and how advantageous it is for The Natural History Museum to be involved.



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