Ancient Fossil Creature Named After Ukraine's President Zelensky

A 150 million-year-old marine invertebrate unearthed in Africa has been named after Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The bizarre creature had 10 long arms and sharp tentacle-like claws to grip the seabed.

It was a type of feather star, which are abundant today on rocky bottoms from the Equator to the poles.

Ausichicrinites zelenskyyi is closely related to sea stars, sea cucumbers, and sea urchins.

Ausichicrinites zelenskyyi fossil named after Zelensky
A 150 million-year-old marine invertebrate unearthed in Africa has been named Ausichicrinites zelenskyyi - after Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky. The bizarre creature had 10 long arms and sharp tentacle-like claws to grip the seabed. It was a type of feather star, which are abundant today on rocky bottoms from the Equator to the poles and is closely related to sea stars, sea cucumbers, and sea urchins. Matthew Newby, SWNS/Zenger

"The fossil is extraordinarily preserved," said lead author Professor Mariusz Salamon, of the University of Silesia, Katowice, Poland, said.

"Ausichicrinites zelenskyyi had 10 massive arms and a ring of claw-like appendages near the base to grip the substrate."

He added: "The animal lived 150 million years ago - and shows putative traces of arm movements.

"It has been named in honor of Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelensky, the sixth and current president of Ukraine, for his courage and bravery in defending free Ukraine."

Feather stars can be a variety of spectacular colors, from deep reds to vibrant oranges and electrifying yellows. Each arm can be up to a foot long.

Their appendages are used to catch food, making the animals filter feeders. They sit in the water, expose their arms, and let nutrients moved by the current come to them.

Feather stars also have the ability to shed an arm the way some lizards can their tails, which is also an anti-predator response.

Salamon said: "The specimen shows evidence of regeneration, which reinforces the hypothesis about the importance of predation in the evolution of feather stars."

Ausichicrinites zelenskyyi was about 2 inches in diameter. Its almost complete remains were dug up at a site in central western Ethiopia.

Ausichicrinites zelenskyyi fossil named after Zelensky
Ausichicrinites zelenskyyi is closely related to sea stars, sea cucumbers, and sea urchins. Matthew Newby, SWNS/Zenger

"Feather stars, or comatulids, are mostly known from highly disarticulated specimens," Salamon said.

"Here, we report a nearly complete, and thus extremely rare, comatulid from the Upper Jurassic of the Blue Nile Basin in central western Ethiopia that provides a unique insight into the morphology of comatulid arms and claws."

He added: "The new fossil from Africa constitutes the earliest, the first example of regeneration in a feather star."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at press conference
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky sits for a press conference on April 23, 2022, in Kyiv, Ukraine. A 150 million-year-old marine invertebrate unearthed in Africa has been named Ausichicrinites zelenskyyi "for his courage and bravery in defending free Ukraine." John Moore/Getty Images

Born with a stem that they shed in adulthood, feather stars can have as few as five arms and as many as 200.

They are often conspicuous to divers and snorkelers. They are not poisonous to humans, but can be toxic to other animals.

Snails often live on them. Fish may comb through feather stars looking for a tasty meal.

Feather stars are echinoderms, like the more familiar sea stars. They are also a type of crinoid, along with sea lilies, which have a stalk.

Ausichicrinites zelenskyyi is described in the Royal Society journal Open Science.

Produced in association with SWNS.

This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.