Recognition of the asteroid (Echinodermata) crown group: Implications of the ventral skeleton

Daniel B. Blake, Frederick H.C. Hotchkiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


All known post-Paleozoic asteroids belong to the crown group, and no crown-group asteroid is known from the Paleozoic. A scanty fossil record provides limited data on morphology of both Paleozoic stem-group sister lineages and on the Triassic crown group diversification. Timing of events is weakly constrained. Interpretations based on this meager record are tentative. Within limitations of the record, recent work suggests that skeletal arrangement of the ventral surface offers apomorphies of crown-group diversification. Enlarged disk size is common in the crown group. Large disks are constructed in part by addition of many ventral and ventral-lateral so-called "actinal" ossicles. Actinals in the crown group are comparatively uniform in size, shape, and arrangement within each species. Actinal alignment is of one of two patterns, parallel to adambulacrals or parallel to marginals. Actinals in the crown group are tentatively considered to be an apomorphy of the crown group, although the incomplete fossil record leads to uncertainty. Enlarged disks are found in some Paleozoic (stem-group) asteroids. Axillary ossicles, marginal series extending onto ventral interbrachia, and enlarged disk adambulacrals are modes of disk size increase known only from Paleozoic asteroids. Actinal ossicles are found in a few stem-group species but arrangements are unlike those of the crown group. Certain Carboniferous and Permian genera share aspects of ambulacral column construction with the crown group, but lack actinal apomorphies. Actinal arrangement is available for two of the three known Triassic genera. In certain ways, patterns are intermediate between stem-group and Jurassic and younger crown-group asteroids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)359-370
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Paleontology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Palaeontology

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