Star Sands: Okinawa’s Incredibly Shaped Living Fossils

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star sand lriomotePhoto: Geomr

When you see sand stars, you may be looking at some of the oldest fossils known to man. There is fossil evidence of them dating back 550 million years, and molecular evidence suggesting 800 million to 1.2 billion years. The best time to find some is after a typhoon when the raging ocean has washed them ups from its depths as the sea bottom lets loose some of its treasures. One reason they are so abundant on beaches in the Indo Pacific Oceanic area is that they prefer shallow waters, often combining with sea algae anchoring them – so you might find some living ones if you look very closely.

Plate of Haeckel's drawing of foraminerPhoto: Ernst Haeckal

Ernst Haeckel (February 16, 1834 – August 9, 1919) was a physician, anatomist, zoologist, naturalist, biologist and artist, whose illustrations are now open to the public domain. This drawing comes from his book ‘Kunstformen der Natur’ (‘Artforms of Nature’). If you look at it you will see a sand star in the bottom right hand corner, it is the most common and known as Baclogypsina sphaerulata. If you have a chance to walk on a beach in Okinawa, remember the romance between the Southern Cross and the North Star, take a close look at the sand, find one of those ‘children’ yourself and take it home as a wonderful memento.

Sources: 1, 2

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