Bundenbach Starfish with Preserved Soft Tissue

Encrinaster roemeri

Geological Time: Lower Devonian, Seigenian/Emsian Stage

Size (25.4 mm = 1 inch): Fossil has a 57 mm armspan on a 121 by 133 mm matrix

Fossil Site: Hunsruck Slate, Bundenbach Germany

EncrinasterDescription: Well-preserved example of an Ophiuroid ( brittlestar) known as Encrinaster roemeri. The Hunsruck slate is famous for its fossils, many of which have pyritization present. Rapid burial and pyritization was what led to the many wonderful examples of early Devonian life from the region. The chemistry of the silt was such that low organic content and high levels of iron and sulfur allowed the pyrite to diffuse into the tissues rather than be deposited in the sediment. The mudstones were metamorphosed into slate during the Carboniferous. The slate was quarried for roofing tiles, and the quarrymen would save the fossils for later sale. Now that the quarries are no longer open, future supplies of these wonderfully-preserved benthic organisms will only come from existing collections. This one displays excellent preservation, including the “skin” which stretched between the arms. The Bundenbach region preserves the most diverse mid-Paleozoic starfish fauna known in the world. Roughly 1/3 of them show some degree of tissue preservation. The genus derives its name from the net-like membrane seen stretched between the arms. The web-like skin seen here is quite spectacular. To what purpose could it have been used? One thought is that it provided a means of keep the starfish at the surface of a soft sea floor; I would think that the arms would have done that job quite well. To me, a more likely scenario is that thy may have used it as a net much like the modern-day bat star Asterina which preys upon other starfish as well as other items. Some even think they filter feed. Whatever the true purpose, this is a most exceptional example, one offered here at a most reasonable price for such a rarely seen specimen.

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