435 million years old starfish discovered in Maam Valley

Maam Valley: keys to our past. Inset: the 435 million years old starfish fossil.
Maam Valley: keys to our past. Inset: the 435 million years old starfish fossil.

A FOSSIL starfish – 435 million years old – has been discovered in the Maam Valley by a geologist working for Clare County Council as part of a UNESCO programme.

Dr. Eamon Doyle, a geologist for the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) Global Geopark, now will have the native fossil named after him.

Christened ‘Crepidosoma doyleii’, the starfish dates back to a period when all of Ireland was covered by the ocean – about 400 million years ago that ocean dried up due to disturbances in the earth’s crust known as plate tectonics.

The latest issue of The Irish Journal of Earth Sciences, published by the Royal Irish Academy, has a detailed account of the discovery which is now housed in the Natural History Museum in Dublin.

Intrernational Researcher, Prof. David Harper, Durham University, said that remote areas of the West of Ireland continued to yield exceptional fossils (the hard remains of a prehistoric animal or plant that are found inside a rock) with a significant impact on understanding 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 NUI Galway,” said Prof. Harper.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.