Jurassic Art: Crinoid Sea Lily Fossil Plate

The beauty of marine life has long inspired our imagination. Fossils of ancient flora and fauna represent some of Earth’s earliest sea-inspired art.

The Seirocrinus subangularis, or crinoid, is a fossil species from the Lower Jurassic era. Crinoids are exceptionally beautiful, supple members of the phylum Echinodermata, the same phylum that includes starfish, sea urchins, and sand dollars. The name originates from the Greek word krinon, “a lily,” and eidos, “form.” They live in both shallow water and in depths as great as 30,000 feet.

Crinoids resemble underwater flowers, with graceful stalks often meters in length. But crinoids are not flowers. Like their relatives—starfish, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, and brittle stars—crinoids are animals with rough, spiny surfaces and a special kind of radial symmetry. Crinoids that are attached to the sea bottom by a stalk are commonly known as sea lilies. The unstalked forms are called feather stars.

Crinoids have inhabited the world’s oceans since the Ordovician Period (the second period of the Paleozoic Era), approximately 490 million years. Some paleontologists think that a fossil called Echmatocrinus, from the Burgess Shale fossil site in British Columbia, might be the earliest crinoid. The Burgess Shale fossils date to well over 500 million years ago.

Many fossil crinoids lived attached to floating driftwood, and it is common to find complete colonies. Sometimes the driftwood became waterlogged, got too heavy, and sank to the bottom, taking the attached crinoids with it, and dooming the entire colony.

Although they were abundant in past ages, today only about 600 crinoid species are known to exist. A few small species have survived in deep water.

This highly unusual group of several large crinoid fossils and stems from the Lower Jurassic (180 million years old) is presented in the original matrix. Like a great many spectacular finds, these originated in the Black Jura of Southern Germany, in Holzmaden (Württemberg), where they were legally collected in a private quarry.

An almost artistic composition, this very attractive plate can be displayed horizontally or vertically. Prepared in our lab in Germany, the hard shale has been painstakingly removed with micro sandblasters and other tools.

Great care has been taken to present the fossils to reveal a wonderful array of textures. Let your House of Whitley consultant help you find the perfect piece for your living or workspace, and answer your questions about customization, design studies, and any other inquiries.

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