Examination of Upper Miocene–Lower Pliocene sediments at IODP Site U1338, in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific, provided new data on the distribution range of the calcareous nannofossil genus Catinaster. In addition to the the well-known occurrence of Catinaster coalitus and Catinaster calyculus in the early Late Miocene, we document Catinaster mexicanus in both the mid-late Miocene and the Early Pliocene. We confirm its taxonomic validity, rejecting previous interpretations of Pliocene C. mexicanus specimens as the result of dissolution of Discoaster altus. Instead, the Pliocene appearance of C. mexicanus seems to originate from the D. altus lineage. The short interval of occurrence (c. 50 ka) in the Late Miocene may document a preliminary evolutionary emergence of C. mexicanus that lacks any relationship with the other Catinaster species. Clear ancestor species to validate its independent origin from Discoaster are, however, missing. In the stratigraphic intervals where Catinaster species are found, their co-occurrence with Discoaster species bearing a prominent star-shaped boss on one side is noteworthy. This suggests that Catinaster and Discoaster at times developed a common morphological feature (a stellate structure, with or without hexaradiate symmetry), possibly under recurrent changes in climatic/environmental conditions. The data presented on C. mexicanus suggest a wider geographical distribution than previously thought, extending from the tropical Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico, equatorial Atlantic and tropical Indian oceans.

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