Meet the 435million-year-old starfish which lived in an ancient ocean in Galway

starfish.jpg

Ireland has a brand new species…and he’s been hanging around our coast for quite a while.

The fossilised starfish has been unearthed off the coast of Galway -and tests show it is 435million years old!

It was found in the Maam Valley of Galway and named ‘Crepidosoma doyleii’ in honour of its discoverer Dr Eamon Doyle, geologist for the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark and Clare County Council.

And although news of the find was only made public today, it was actually discovered in the late 1980s.

Dr Doyle, 54, from Ennistymon in Clare, told irishmirror.ie: “I’m absolutely thrilled they decided to name it after me.

a man posing for the camera © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc

“The question a lot of people may be asking is why this is only coming out now.

“And the explanation is that we didn’t have the expertise to know the significance of it at the time.

“It was put aside and basically shelved and re-examined recently.”

The specimen has since been housed in the National Museum in Dublin.

A new study on the remarkable find appears in the latest issue of The Irish Journal of Earth Sciences, published by the Royal Irish Academy.

a river surrounded by trees © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc

Three professors describe the ophiuroid starfish, commonly known as a ‘brittle star’, as first evolving around 500 million years ago.

They have survived relatively unchanged to the present day, although the ocean that was home to the Galway sea creature disappeared 400 million years ago due to plate tectonic movements of the Earth’s crust.

One of the experts, Prof David Harper of Durham University, said: “The remote areas of the west of Ireland continue to yield some exceptional fossils with a significant impact on the understanding of the history of life.

“These unique specimens of fossil starfish from the Silurian rocks of Connemara are a key piece of evidence in the hunt for past life in the ocean that covered Ireland, some 435 million years ago.

“We owe a great deal to the painstaking efforts of Dr Eamon Doyle who combed these distant mountains for fossils during his PhD studies at University College Galway.

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