Paleontology

The fossil in question: Cantabrigiaster fezouataensis from the Lower Ordovician (Tremadocian) Fezouata Shale, Zagora Morocco
The fossil in question: Cantabrigiaster fezouataensis from the Lower Ordovician (Tremadocian) Fezouata Shale, Zagora Morocco

Starfish-like fossil holds clues to evolutionary past

A well-preserved fossil dating back 480 million years is being used by researchers at the University of Cambridge to decipher the origins of the modern-day starfish.

Named Cantabrigiaster fezouataensis, the fossil was discovered in Morroco's Anti-Atlas mountain range. Frozen in time for 480 million years, the fossil yields features that are similar to both sea lilies and modern-day starfish.

Palaeontologist and PhD student James Rule inspects the fossil skull of the newly identified monk seal species.
Palaeontologist and PhD student James Rule inspects the fossil skull of the newly identified monk seal species.

Discovery of seal fossils leads to new revelations

The discovery of the extinct monk seal species came about after an international team of biologists examined seven fossil specimens (including a complete skull) found on south Taranaki beaches in New Zealand between 2009 and 2016.

Named Eomonachus belegaerensis, the new species was about 2.5m long and weighed around 200 to 250kg. It is believed to have lived in the waters around New Zealand three million years ago.