An international team has discovered the oldest starfish in the world dating back 480 million years. It was found at Fazouata in the Little Atlas in Zagora (southeastern Morocco), where it provides the missing link between modern and ancient creatures called “Contabrigiaster fezouataensis” (Cantabrigiaster fezouataensis). Fazwata site, which belongs to the family of axolotls.
“This discovery crowns our efforts to arrange the Fazwata site as a national heritage and the UNESCO World Heritage List, and it took 17 years to work on it to reach these results,” Khadija Hariri, research supervisor of the Fazwata site from the University of Cadi Ayyad, said in an interview with Al-Jazeera Net.
According to the scientific study, the results of which were published in the journal Biology Letters on January 20, the oldest competitor to the oldest starfish, the only star, is about 50 million years younger than it.
The research team belongs to several universities, including Cambridge University and Harvard University, and Al-Hariri indicates that the first team that began publishing on the discovery of the Fazwata site belongs to Yale University of the United States.
She adds, “The research team included scientists from Claude Bernard University Lyon 1, France, and Cadi Ayyad University in Morocco, where we started in 2003, and these works gave an added value in 2014 at this site, because the fossils lose their value when they are outside the layer in which they were found.” “.
We were also able to know the exact age of the fossils. A team of research students, professors and experts from other countries have participated in this work for 4 weeks on these layers. Al-Shuki, who made it possible to end the confusion of specialized experts, and this confusion lasted more than a century and a half.
“This marine organism reflects well an important period in biological diversity, which helps shed light on how starfish and related animals evolved. In addition, the remains at the site are exceptionally preserved, where the soft and hard parts remain,” said Dr. Hariri of the new discovery. Preserved, which confirms that we have an amazing level of detail in these excavations. “
According to the research supervisor, this fossil is like a hybrid that combines the properties of starfish and sea lily “Crinoid”, which are similar to plants, as they have a connection with the sea floor through a stalk, making them like plants not moving.
The research team concluded through this study that the starfish that was found at the Fazwata site developed its five arms, and it may be a way to avoid the predators that live with it at this time (480 million years) which was the subject of several articles previously published in famous scientific journals from The most important of them is Nature.
Hariri points out that this research needs more in-depth research, because discovering these details can be done by other research methods to clarify the mystery that exists in this Moroccan star, because it belongs to starfish, which “enabled us to discover the oldest marine area.”
List of world heritage
Hariri says, “We had several stations to talk about this site to value the efforts to classify it on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and in 2015 we issued postage stamps for a group of excavations that distinguish the Fazwata site by virtue of that they are not found in any country other than Morocco, and precisely in the city of Zagora. Just.
She indicated that the first book on the geological heritage was published with the concerted efforts of the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Environment and the Moroccan Geological Heritage Preservation Society, and they celebrated November 14 as a national day for geological heritage. Thanks to coordinated efforts with the Ministry of Energy, Mines and the Environment, Law 3313 was issued in August 2019, which regulates excavations in Morocco.
Al-Hariri concluded her interview with Al-Jazeera Net over the phone, saying, “We hope, through concerted efforts with Moroccan and foreign researchers, to reach the classification of the discovery site (Fezouata) as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.”