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Proc Biol Sci. 2005 May 22;272(1567):1001-6.

A starfish with three-dimensionally preserved soft parts from the Silurian of England.

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Department of Earth Sciences and Engineering, South Kensington Campus, Imperial College London, London SW7 2AZ, UK.


Palaeozoic asteroids represent a stem-group to the monophyletic post-Palaeozoic Neoasteroidea, but many aspects of their anatomy are poorly known. Using serial grinding and computer reconstruction, we describe fully articulated Silurian (ca 425 Myr) specimens from the Herefordshire Lagerstätte, preserved in three dimensions complete with soft tissues. The material belongs to a species of Bdellacoma, a genus previously assigned to the ophiuroids, but has characters that suggest an asteroid affinity. These include a pyloric system in the gut, and the presence of large bivalved pedicellariae, the latter originally described under the name Bursulella from isolated valves. Ampullae are external and occur within podial basins; the radial canal is also external. Podia are elongate and lack terminal suckers. The peristome is large relative to the mouth. Aspects of the morphology are comparable to that of the extant Paxillosida, supporting phylogenetic schemes that place this order at the base of the asteroid crown group.

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