Marine biologists in the depths of the South Pacific have discovered a new species of brittle stars. The creature, named Ophiojura exbodi, has eight four-inch appendages, each covered with rows of sharp spines. Experts say this is almost unheard of for fragile stars. The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
However, even more intimidating than these appendages are its teeth – eight rows of razor-sharp teeth. Scientists believe that Ophiojura exbodi, hidden in the underwater mountain, has remained virtually unchanged for 180 million years, since the early Jurassic.
Scientists from the French Museum of Natural History first discovered this amazing specimen in 2011, at a depth of about half a kilometer in the South Pacific, but have only now been able to identify it.
Like their distant relatives today’s starfish, ophiurs use their “ray arms” to crawl nimbly along the seafloor. But they are much more formidable because these eight spines are covered with long rows of hooks and spines. And computed tomography revealed that this is not the creature’s only defense: these “arms” meet in the center, where the mouth contains a whole “nest” of sharp teeth lining eight sets of jaws.
Scientists have stated that Ophiojura exbodi is not just a new species of brittle stars, it is also a new genus and a new family from the phylum of echinoderms. DNA evidence suggests that Ophiojura exbodi separated from its closest relative 180 million years ago, sometime in the early Jurassic or Triassic Era.