The Walcott-Rust quarry (a creek exposure in New York) is a classic Ordovician site. Much has been written about it and the famous Charles Doolittle Walcott who made major discoveries based on the specimens he collected there in the mid-to-late 1800s. His work focused on the fossils that the locality has long been famous for: its trilobites.
But the strata also contain several echinoderms. Among them are crinoids along with occasional starfish, and rare cystoids and cyclocystoids.
A decade ago, I had the opportunity to collect at the site with Dan Cooper, who had just leased the fossil collecting rights from the property owner. I was aware that echinoderms could be found there, but did not expect to find something as rare as a starfish. And, of course, I didn’t. Not on any of the several collecting trips to the quarry. But I did acquire two specimens from Dan’s son Jason, who was digging the site regularly. The first starfish specimen occupies the same small slab with a crinoid (Figure 1).
The starfish is unusual because one arm is missing. The arm was not lost when collected or during prep. It simply wasn’t there. This suggests it was lost back in the Ordovician (“natural damage”), during burial or perhaps due to attack by a predator, or possibly that the arm never developed (a “pathological” specimen).
The other starfish was on a large partially prepped slab from the quarry. I held onto it for several years before finally asking Ben Cooper to do the finish prep. That prep work revealed that the slab also contains two small trilobites. The end result is in Figure 2.
At over two and a half inches across, this starfish is a large specimen. A close-up view is in Figure 3.
A question for those reading this blog: Does anyone out there have identification for these starfish?
[I wrote a more comprehensive article on my experiences at the Walcott-Rust site for the 2020 MAPS Expo Digest. But since the 2020 MAPS Show was cancelled due to Covid-19 concerns, the publication date has been postponed until the next show in spring 2021.]
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The best single reference is SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION UNITED STATES NATIONAL MUSEUM
Bulletin 88 which is Schuchert’s “Revision of Paleozoic Stelleroidea with special refereance to North American Asteroidea,” Its readily available on the internet as a pdf copy. You can also find hardcopies on the Internet as well at Abebooks. Other sources include Journal Paleontological papers by Thomas Guensburg, Daniel Blake, and Fred Hotchkiss,
I had about 35 starfish in my collection at one time. Species include:
I may still have photos with ID. Another source for info is Steve Holland’s website. Let me look around and I see what I have, It might take me awhile.
Steve: Thanks so much for the information! This is fantastic! Don
Figure 2/3 is probably the genus Urasterella
Fig 2 starfish shown at https://trenton.mcz.harvard.edu/echinodermata
Hello Don! There is also David Blake’s : Blake, D. B. 2018. Toward a history of the Paleozoic Asteroidea (Echinodermata). Bulletins of American Paleontology No. 394, 96 pp., 15 pls. Purchase. At PRI Bookstore. We are presently working on describing starfishes from the Neuville Formation of Quebec (similar in age with the Rust Formation), and we do have a couple of specimen that looks like the one on the second (and third) photos… This probably new!
BTW, the small crinoid looks like a Cincinnaticrinus…
Mario: Thanks for the reference. Look forward to learning more about your work on the Neuville Formation. And thanks for the ID on the crinoid. Don