Article: Mass mortality of an asteriid starfish (Forcipulatida, Asteroidea, Echinodermata) from the late Maastrichtian (Late Cretaceous) of Morocco
A mass occurrence, numbering tens of thousands of individuals in a single lens, belonging to a single species of asteroid, is described from the late Maastrichtian (Late Cetaceous) of Morocco. The lens of partially silicified asteroidal limestone is made up largely of fully articulated specimens of similar size and probably represents the mass mortality of a single recruitment. By comparison with mass strandings of the present-day species Asterias rubens (Linnaeus), it can be inferred that a feeding swarm of individuals was swept into a submarine channel by either a storm or an exceptionally strong tidal current, and permanently buried. The genus and species are herein described as Cretasterias reticulatus gen. et sp. nov. The exceptional preservation of the material enables the identification of wreath organs (clusters of crossed pedicellariae set in a dermal pad around spines) for the first time in the fossil record. Comparison between extant Asteriidae, putative fossil asteriids and C. reticulatus provides ambiguous evidence of its affinities; it appears to display a combination of plesiomorphic and derived characters. It is shown that all Mesozoic forcipulatid asteroids described so far share a very simple arm construction (single row of adradial ossicles) unknown in adult extant Forcipulatida.