This specimen was retrieved and brought back in October/November of 2014 on one of our collecting trips to Morocco. I prepared this specimen and stabilized the matrix and specimen (June 2015). The last photo, one of the specimen on my lap, shows the split as found before preparation. Using a microscope and pneumatic chisel, the specimen was delicately cleaned of remaining matrix and to bring out the finer details. Most of these specimens are roughly prepared by workers in Morocco who use filler and coloration to hide any work, working quickly to move onto the next specimen. I took my time to prepare this piece and payed close detail to the fine preservation.
Brittle stars or ophiuroids are echinoderms that are closely related to the starfish and belong to a family that evolved more than 500 million years ago. They crawl across the sea floor using their flexible arms for locomotion. The ophiuroids generally have five long, slender, whip-like arms which may reach up to 24 in. in length on the largest specimens. They are also known as serpent stars.
More than 1200 of these species are found in modern deep waters, greater than 200 m deep. Ophiuroids can be found today in all of the major marine provinces, from the poles to the tropics.