RESURRECTION OF AN OLD WORLD FOSSIL, THE ECHINOID,
ANGELI, Nicholas, Patricia Eicks, and Bruce L. Stinchcomb, Dept. of Geology,
St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley, St. Louis, MO, USA
Some historically significant, paleontological wonders once described in the
rudimentary firsts of documented literature often remain silent, throwing up
no barriers of questionable origin, affiliations or misinterpretations. They
remain dormant and undaunted as the world of paleontology grew up around
them, leaving only a trail of unparalleled enchantment for us to follow.
Melonechinus Meek and Worthen 1860 (Melonites Norwood and Owen 1846)
is one such fossil. Described by J.G. Norwood and D.D. Owen through the
Transactions of the Saint Louis Academy of Science after a visit to Saint Louis
in the winter of 18441845. Three specimens were recovered from near low
water mark along the Mississippi River from the Limestone Formation of
what is presently known as the St. Louis Formation, Mississippian or Lower
Carboniferous Period. Additional discoveries were later made in the old north
city sections. These yielded specimens of the cantaloupe-shaped echinoid made
famous by their discovery as a biostrome in a quarry. Workman noted their
unusual shape and commonly referred to them as coltsfoot in reference to the
resemblance of the frog of a horse's foot.
Minor taxonomy problems were worked out by paleontologists such as Agassiz,
McCoy, Jackson, Jaggar, Keys, and of course Meek and Worthen. These
Victorian paleontological dilemmas started at the class level and included the
inclusion of echinoids with the Crinoidea. Early thinking suggested that
echinoids were attached by a pedicel stalk or jointed columns, simply because
some washed in crinoid stems were consolidated with the specimens. Almost
all other systematical descriptions had to do with the number and arrangement
of ambulacral plates and pores. Later works solved problems at the species
level eventually settling at fourteen species by 1910.
In 1860 Meek and Worthen renamed the genus Melonechinus from Melonites
to which Lamarck first applied the name (Melonites) for the genus Polypi
(an anthozoa) thus retaining the name if so needed.
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