Miniaturization during a Silurian environmental crisis generated the modern brittle star body plan

Ben Thuy, Mats E. Eriksson, Manfred Kutscher, Johan Lindgren, Lea D. Numberger-Thuy, David F. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (SciVal)

Abstract

Pivotal anatomical innovations often seem to appear by chance when viewed through the lens of the fossil record. As a consequence, specific driving forces behind the origination of major organismal clades generally remain speculative. Here, we present a rare exception to this axiom by constraining the appearance of a diverse animal group (the living Ophiuroidea) to a single speciation event rather than hypothetical ancestors. Fossils belonging to a new pair of temporally consecutive species of brittle stars (Ophiopetagno paicei gen. et sp. nov. and Muldaster haakei gen. et sp. nov.) from the Silurian (444–419 Mya) of Sweden reveal a process of miniaturization that temporally coincides with a global extinction and environmental perturbation known as the Mulde Event. The reduction in size from O. paicei to M. haakei forced a structural simplification of the ophiuroid skeleton through ontogenetic retention of juvenile traits, thereby generating the modern brittle star bauplan.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14
JournalCommunications Biology
Volume5
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Geology

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