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Starfish

Crateraster mccarteri
(originally Austinaster mccarteri)
Starfish fossil TMM BEG 34041
Late Cretaceous (about 85 million years ago)
Travis County, Texas

These starfish were found in Bouldin Creek, here in Travis County. This is one of two pieces that were cut out of a 1200-pound slab. The starfish were first exhibited in 1936, and they have been gems of Texas Memorial Museum's collections ever since. They were featured in the 1986 exhibit, "Treasures of the Texas Memorial Museum," which celebrated the Museum's 50th birthday.

Starfish are invertebrates that can be found in oceans all over the world. They live in a wide range of marine environments, and they vary greatly in size and shape. In fact, there are about 1800 different species of starfish alive today, and hundreds more are known from the fossil record.

The specimens are embedded in a type of rock known as the "Austin chalk." This layer of rock was formed from the settling of fine layers of sediment during the late Cretaceous, about 85 million years ago.

Starfish fossil with four legs

Surprise! Did you know that, occasionally, a "five-legged" starfish is born with only four legs? Variation like this occurs in all natural populations. However, it's very rare that enough individuals are fossilized together for us to see this variation in fossils.

The starfish are on permanent exhibit in the Hall of Geology and Paleontology.