Brittle Star

Smouthered by a storm?

This brittle star came from the ‘Starfish Bed’ between Eype and Seatown. Hundreds of similar fossils have been recovered from huge fallen blocks on the beach. Many, like this one, have three legs pointing or trailing in one direction. This suggests that there was a current flowing across the sea floor when these animals were buried, from left to right in this image.

It has been speculated that a storm, or even a tsunami event smothered a whole community of brittle starfish in a single event, capturing a moment in time about 180 million years ago.

There are also exceptions to the rule – some brittle stars are preserved with little alignment of the legs or occasionally with four legs trailing and one pointing in the opposite direction. Brittle stars today can move across the sea bed with their legs arranged in that way.

The starfish bed is typical of many features in geology that can offer us contradictory evidence when we’re trying to interpret past environments.

Find out more about brittle stars on on the echinoderms pages.

Common name

Brittle Star

Scientific name

Palaeocoma egertoni

Type

Echinoderms > Starfish


Strata

Starfish Bed

Time period

Lower Jurassic

Age

180 million years

Where found

Eype

Found by

Unknown

Museum

Fairlynch Museum, Budleigh Salterton

Accession number

BULFM-2013-124