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Sea lily Zelensky: scientists named a fossil animal in honor of the President of Ukraine

Polish scientists have described a new species of animal and named it after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. We are talking about the sea lily Ausichicrinites zelenskyyi, which lived near Africa 150 million years ago. Read more about this publication with the BBC.

Photo: Shutterstock

Newly discovered creature

A team of Polish paleontologists led by Mariusz Salamon from the Institute for Geosciences in Katowice examined a fossil of an unknown animal from the Jurassic period. Scientists have discovered that it belongs to a group of echinoderms, the current representatives of which are starfish, brittle stars, sea urchins, sea lilies and holothurians or sea cucumbers.

Scientists have established that the animal belongs to the Comatulida series. Representatives of this group of echinoderms do not have "stems" at the adult stage of development, as in typical sea lilies.

Komatulids still exist today, they live on the seabed and on reefs in tropical and temperate waters.

An analysis of the structure of the fossil animal indicated the need to describe a new species and genus. The animal was named Ausichicrinites zelenskyyi, or Zelensky's ausichicrinite.

The genus name honors William Ausich, an echinoderm fossil specialist at the Orton Geological Museum. The word crinites is traditionally used to refer to sea lilies.

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The specific epithet zelenskyyi honors Volodymyr Zelensky for his "courage in defense of a free Ukraine," the official wording says.

Unique find

Why is this find so unique? First, it is well preserved. Secondly, it was discovered in the Antalo geological formation in Ethiopia.

Ausichicrinit Zelensky is the first representative of the echinoderm of the Jurassic period, which was found on the African continent.

The discovery of an almost complete fossil of Ausichicrinites Zelenskyyi is also unique due to the fact that it is very rare for representatives of crinoids from the comatulids series to enter the geological record in good condition. Most often, only separate fragments are found that are difficult to study.

Fossils have another interesting detail. The petrified animal shows signs of an old injury. The animal survived the attack, probably an unsuccessful attempt to be eaten by a predator. It has lost one of its ten limbs. Modern echinoderms are well known for their amazing regenerative potential and can quickly and completely regenerate lost organs.

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Ausichicrinites Zelenskyyi shows signs of regrowth of a damaged organ, and is the first example of regeneration documented in a fossil crinoids.

Victory or betrayal

The name of a new species in honor of famous people is an ancient tradition that originates in the systematics of living organisms. Another well-known Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus named various types of organisms in honor of friends, relatives, colleagues and political figures of that time who were committed to him.

This tradition lives on to this day: this year, scientists named a new tree species after the famous American actor Leonardo DiCaprio, and a prehistoric clam after US President Joe Biden.

Some people are offended by such dedications, and they look for hidden implications in the appearance or level of development of the described living organisms, but scientists usually adore the objects of study and thus show their respect.

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