Crinoid and starfish travel for a prep and a loan

Crinoid unprepped, picture courtesy of R. taylor

Crinoid unprepped, picture courtesy of R. Taylor

Another fossil travel story – but this time a crinoid and some associated starfish.

The story began when Robert posted a picture of a crinoid he found on the Yorkshire coast
in the Yorkshire Fossil Collectors facebook group. It looked very large and quite interesting,
so I asked him if we could meet when I would come to Yorkshire for our summer holidays
and take a “live” look. We agreed on a date and Robert came visiting with his crinoid,
see a pre-prep picture of it above.

Robert had protected the surface of the fossil with a thin coat of paraloid, but I could
instantly see the potential of this fossil, and also that there might be more in the rock –
starfish !

The surface of the slab was relatively soft, I could scratch it with a fingernail, which is a
good sign that this fossil can be easily prepared using an air abrader with iron powder
as an abrasive. I offered to prep it for Robert without charge and give it back to him on
our next visit to Yorkshire.

Now don’t get me wrong here – I neither do preparation as a business, nor do I encourage
readers to ask me to prep something for them -if I see a fossil that I see potential in and
I’m sure I can prep it well, I will offer to do so. So don’t ask me, I will ask you…

Anyway, Robert agreed to my offer and I took the fossil home to Germany with me at the
end of our holidays.Preparation commenced relatively soon after our return from
Yorkshire and it was as simple as I had hoped, the matrix covering the fossil melted
like butter under the low pressure stream of the abrasive.

When I first directed the abrasive across the crinoid remains, I was somewhat taken
aback because the crinoid arms suddenly appeared in a creamy white when the matrix
and the paraloid covering it were removed – I feared they would be soft crystallized
calcite, but they turned out to be stable and just fine.
Crinoid and starfish prepped
Crinoid and starfish prepped
Additionally, as suspected, the slab also contain the remnants of up to 6 starfish, with
two very decayed ones on top of the crinoid and 4 on the side of it. When most of the
matrix and paraloid was removed, which took about 4 hours of prep time,
I sent some pictures to Robert.

In September, Robert went to the Scarborough Fossil Festival at the Rotunda and
showed the pictures to Dr. Timothy Ewin, senior curator for Echinoderms at the
London Natural History Museum, who, in Robert’s words, got “very exited” seeing
the pictures and asked if he could see more detailed pictures of the crinoid and
of the starfish.

The Rotunda in Scarborough

The Rotunda in Scarborough

I sent some more pictures and an e-mail discussion between the 3 of us ensued with
the result that the crinoid has tentatively been identified as a large Isocrinus robustus
and the starfish needing a detailed inspection on the “live” specimen to identify them.

Since my family and I had planned a visit in London in October anyway,
I offered (of course conditional on Robert’s agreement to do so) to take the specimen
to London for Dr Ewin to see it.

Robert and Dr. Ewin agreed, so I finished the preparation of the specimen in an
additional 2 hours and packaged it very safely for the journey
(I luckily still had some foam left from the Ichthyosaur donation…)

Packaging material
Packaging material
Crinoid ready to go
Crinoid ready to go

The transport was relatively straightforward, of course you get the
“what the heck have you got in there ?” question from the x-ray folks at the airport,
but after opening the case and allowing a swab for explosives,the crinoid went
on the flight to London.

Natural History Museum, London
Natural History Museum, London

Later in the week, we met with Dr. Tim Ewin in the Natural History Museum, and after
a quick inspection we agreed that this was indeed a very complete and large
Isocrinus robustus, and the starfish were not Tropidaster, but maybe Uraster or
something similar but that would require further detailed inspection.

The material is surprisingly similar to the legendary Mickleton tunnel fossils,
which I could see later on in the collections.
Specimen will be on loan to NHM and be given back to Robert, maybe on occasion of the
next Fossil festival ? According to Dr Ewin, there’s  a good chance you might see this
specimen pictured in the upcoming Yorkshire Lias guide…


Many many thanks to Robert for entrusting  me with his crinoid, both for the preparation
and the transport to the NHM, it was a pure pleasure to prep. Many thanks to
Dr. Timothy Ewin for keeping the important contact with us collectors and of course
for the tour of the NHM crinoid and starfish collections 🙂

And the next post will again be an ammonite one, I promise 🙂


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