The discovery is said to be the “missing link” that will help protect modern sea creatures from extinction risks.
In collaboration with researchers from Cambridge University, University of Western Australia scientists have yet again discovered a precious fossil in Morocco that dates back 480 million years, according to a study published in the Royal Society journal on January 20.
Found in the Fezouata shale of the Anti-Atlas Mountain range and named Cantabrigiaster Fezouataensis, the star-shaped sea animal fossil is the first ancestor of all starfish species in the world, experts from Cambridge University said.
One of the study’s researchers, Dr. Aaron Hunter, said that finding the 480-million-year-old fossil was an exciting discovery because it is the “missing link” that will contribute to protecting modern sea creatures from the risk of extinction due to climate change.
The feathery-looking starfish is said to lack around 60% of the modern starfish’s features, having a hybrid look between a starfish and crinoids, or “sea lily.”
Morocco has a long history of fossil discovery. In 2017, scientists found the world’s oldest fossil of Homo Sapiens in the Jebel Irhoud archaeological site.
In October 2020, another group of scientists found a small flying dinosaur near the village of Hassi El Begaa in the Kem Kem region in eastern Morocco.
The small dinosaur from the pterosaur species was named Leptostomia begaansis, meaning “Slim mouth” in Greek, with “Begaaensis” referring to the Moroccan village Hassi El Begaa.
“We’ve never seen anything like this little pterosaur before,” said one of the discoverers Professor David Martill, a paleontologist at the University of Portsmouth.
In November 2020, researchers from the universities of Zurich and Chicago published a paper showing a scientific discovery that analyzed fossils of an ancient shark found by the Moroccan archaeologist Said Oukherbouch in Tafraoute, Morocco in 2016.
According to the paper, the ancient shark, which belongs to the Ferromirum Oukherbouchi species that existed from the Late Devonian period, 360 and 375 million years ago, will help scientists better understand the species’ jaws function.
Reacting to the discovery of the oldest starfish, Nikolaj Harris, Denmark’s ambassador to Morocco, suggested that Morocco could be home to the world’s oldest civilization.
“After the oldest homosapiens, it is the turn of the starfish. Morocco is very probably the origin of the world,” he said in a tweet.