Ancient gardens of the deep: Crinoids in science and history


Charles Messing, Ph.D.
Nova Southeastern University

Wednesday, December 3, 2003
Pacific Forum 3:00 p.m.



Arriving as the Azoic Zone hypothesis collapsed, Michael Sars' discovery of the stalked crinoid Rhizocrinus lofotensis, the first "living fossil" recovered from the deep sea, supported Darwin's newly published theory of evolution and strengthened a growing impetus for deep-sea research that led to the Challenger Expedition. Because of the circumstances of this initial popularity, crinoids are often treated as relics of an earlier age, barely holding off final extinction in remote abyssal habitats. Yet the group, the least understood of echinoderm classes, includes some of the most flamboyant and abundant residents of tropical reefs as well as bathyal bank margins. Recent research includes studies of environmental control of morphology, growth and taphonomy; niche partitioning and feeding postures, and systematics and biogeography among both shallow and deep-water taxa from the Bahamas to the Western Pacific.