Schoenaster carterensis new species, is an asteroid-like ophiuroid (Echinodermata) from Upper Mississippian (Chesterian) shallow-water carbonates in the Ramey Creek Member of the Slade Formation in northeastern Kentucky. First described in the 1860s from Lower and Middle Mississippian rocks, Schoenaster Meek and Worthen, 1860 is not a well-known fossil genus, but the 39 specimens in this collection permitted further definition of the genus and extended its range by ca. 17 Ma into Late Mississippian (Chesterian) time. The number of specimens also permitted differentiation of growth stages based on average arm length and showed that arm length, disk perimeter, and disk area are interrelated in statistically significant ways. Although replaced by chert, the specimens are nearly intact due to rapid burial as rare constituents in habitat communities distributed among four once-contiguous habitats, including shoal, shoal margin, transitional, and basinal. Most of the ophiuroids were concentrated on firm grounds or hardgrounds in shoal and transitional environments, concentrations that probably reflect substratum stability and the ability to support the ophiuroid’s generalist feeding strategy. Many fossil ophiuroid species are known from only a few specimens, severely limiting interpretations about their detailed taxonomy, individual variation, and ecology. In contrast, the greater number of specimens and extensive knowledge of geologic occurrence in this study permitted detailed interpretations regarding the taxonomic, intraspecific, and ecologic attributes of this species, which might be useful in the study of other fossil ophiuroids.


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