Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sea Star / Starfish

It turns out the sea star fossil that was found near Kalaloch was right in plain sight in the rocks at the bottom of the Beach 4 access trail, on June 22, 2009, a week after PH and SA and I were there. This was the place we went tidepooling on the morning after our first night in the cabin at Kalaloch. It was to the left (south) of the footbridge, and we had gone right (north) to get to the tidepool rocks. So we didn't quite just not see it and step right over it.

At the program the whole audience murmured to itself when they showed a photo of the rock where the fossil appeared. Footbridge plainly in view right behind it. We'd all been there, often, yes indeed.

They are thinking that the rock is so soft and the spot so exposed to erosion, it must have only just appeared when a park visitor spotted it. Likewise they decided that they had to interfere with natural processes and remove it, not an easy decision in a National Park, because sea star fossils are so very rare and it would erode away immediately...

Picture of footbridge found on the web. Thanks to *CA* for putting it out there. (None of the three of us took a pic of it.)

You are supposed to say 'sea star', not 'starfish'. The Park guy who did the extraction was careful to say 'sea star' and write that on his slides. But even Elizabeth Nesbitt, the invertebrate paleontologist who gave the second part of the talk, said 'starfish'. Or Latin, 'asteroid'. Oh Liz Nesbitt was wonderful. Distinctly thought of this bit of stone as an animal, a creature. Talked at length about how it might have happened to be preserved intact, a really really rare event for asteroids, indeed for all echinoderms. There simply are no other fossils like it. The last slide was of the prepared and restored critter, all five rays plainly visible, in his block of stone in a glass display case in the Burke Museum in Seattle. There was a present-day (dead) sea star also in the case. She said that the fossil had looked lonely in the display, so they had given him some company. :-)

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