Lonely Planet Writer

A half-a-billion year-old starfish is going on display in Dublin

A fossilised starfish that’s almost half-a-billion years old is set to be a big attraction when it goes on display in Dublin. The ophiuroid starfish, commonly known as a brittle star, is dated at 435 million years old and it was found in Connemara in the west of Ireland.

This fossilised starfish found in Connemara, Co. Galway has been dated at 435 million years old. Image: Royal Irish Academy

Brittle stars first evolved around 500 million years ago and have survived relatively unchanged to the present day. This specimen was discovered in the Maam Valley in Galway by Dr. Eamonn Doyle, geologist for the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Unesco Global Geopark and Clare County Council, and has been named ‘Crepidosoma doyleii’ in his honour. The starfish was uncovered found in the Maamturk mountain range, after Dr. Doyle meticulously combed it for fossils during his PhD studies.

A fossilised starfish was found in Maam Valley, Co. Galway. Image: pskeltonphoto

“The remote areas of the west of Ireland continue to yield some exceptional fossils with a significant impact on understanding of the history of life,” says Prof. David Harper from the UK, who conducted the study on the starfish with international researchers, Prof. Daniel B. Blake from the US and Prof. Stephen K. Donovan from the Netherlands. “These new and unique specimens of fossil starfish from the Silurian rocks of Connemara are a key piece of evidence in the hunt for ancient life in the long-vanished ocean that once covered Ireland, some 435 million years ago.”

Mamean trail, Maam Valley, Co. Galway. Image: pskeltonphoto

Details of research into the rare finding have been published in the Irish Journal of Earth Sciences, which is published by the Royal Irish Academy. The fossilised starfish will soon be housed in the Natural History Museum in Dublin.