Abstract

Eriaster ibexensis n. gen. and sp., from the Ibexian (Lower Ordovician) of Utah, is the oldest-known body-fossil taxon of the class Asteroidea. Although important features are not preserved, the external form of E. ibexensis is suggestive of certain living asteroids and unlike approximately coeval somasteroids. The similar ages of Eriaster and the oldest-known somasteroid challenge the candidacy of the latter as basal to asteroids.

Trace fossils assigned to Asteriacites have been recovered from strata as ancient as Lower Cambrian. Asteriacites from younger strata are considered to represent resting traces of asterozoans. Mode of formation of early representatives is problematic; however, their simple existence raises the possibility of extended pre-Ibexian asterozoan evolution, which could explain the morphological disparity found among the earliest-known body-fossil asterozoans.

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