By: April Carson
The name crinoid comes from the Greek for lily and refers to the "lily pad" shape of many species, although technically they aren't plants, but marine animals.
A Crinoid fossil dating from about 345 million years ago is incredibly well-preserved. This fossil has been on sale from an online vendor, which is a little unusual as they rarely come on the market. In addition this one is of a type not often seen - it's almost complete! It was found in Morocco and turned up at an auction house some years ago.
Crinoid fossils are common worldwide with literally billions of specimens having been found in rocks from the very earliest Cambrian to times as recent as a couple of hundred years ago.
What are Crinoids?
Crinoids are marine animals that live attached to the sea bed by a flexible stem.
They are sometimes referred to as "sea lilies" because of their superficial resemblance to plant stems with leaves.
The stem is composed of many discs stacked one on top of another, each covered in feathery arms that filter food particles from the water column.
Crinoids were suspension feeders that caught plankton as water was drawn into their open arms. The water was then expelled through fine sieves, trapping the plankton.
Some Crinoids could even walk along the sea floor using their arms as stilts, although mostly they remained attached to the sea floor by a fleshy anchor known as a holdfast.
The average lifespan of a crinoid is between four and six years, depending on the species. Some lived for only a few months, while others might survive for 50 years or more.
The internal structure of a crinoids body shows evidence for evolution, and can be used to help date different parts of the fossil record. The researchers also found that they preyed upon small particles such as crustaceans, unlike most modern crinoids which feed on unicellular organisms such as microalgae.
The research was conducted by an international team of paleontologists from the University of Leicester, the University of Manchester and Imperial College London. The paper was published in Nature Scientific Reports on May 23rd.
The fossil record is much more diverse and complicated than previously thought. The record shows that crinoids have evolved into filter-feeding animals over hundreds of millions of years.
Predators play a big role in shaping the world and understanding them is key to knowing what we can expect from the future.
These creatures exhibited characteristics of predation while living, such as tube feet and arms covered with hooks and prongs for trapping food. These findings are important for understanding the evolution of predation.
Predation is an important evolutionary force that shapes many ecological communities, but how it influences communities throughout time is not well understood.
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