Research Projects

The echinoderm body plan

Paleozoic ophiuroids of modern aspect

  • SEM study of isolated ossicles of Paleozoic ophiuroids. This study is made possible by a 2008 Karl Hirsch Memorial Research Grant from the Western Interior Paleontological Society, Denver, Colorado. The use of SEM images is standard and necessary for the study of ophiuroid ossicles. The use of stereo-pair images is especially important because of the difficulty of adequately describing the complex high relief articulations of the vertebrae [arm ossicles]. The materials include isolated vertebrae of the fascinating Mississippian age ophiuroid Onychaster flexilis donated by F. Rudolf Turner, and also some unidentified ophiuroid vertebrae from the Devonian of Germany and of the Czech Republic. The articulation surfaces of ophiuroid vertebral ossicles are complex and contain information of behavioral, ecological and taxonomic significance. The SEM images from the WIPS grant will provide a basis for conducting a longer term and more detailed study. Such studies depend on the good luck of obtaining specimens of body fossils that provide favorable views of individual ossicles that can place the isolated ossicles into the context of the whole animal, its behavior and its ecology. The ophiuroid Onychaster is fairly famous from being found perched on the crown of crinoids specimens from the Crawfordsville, Indiana, crinoid beds. However there is a history of disagreement on whether it is a euryalid or a non-euryalid ophiuroid. Therefore learning more about the structure of Onychaster arm vertebrae using modern SEM techniques on exceptionally well preserved isolated ossicles will be an important result from this grant. The ossicles from the Czech Republic are studied in collaboration with Dr. Rudolf J. Prokop, Museum of Natural History, National Museum, Praha, Czech Republic, and Vaclav Petr, Research Associate of MPRI, Praha, Czech Republic]. Work in progress 2008.

  • Ophiuroids from the Imo Formation (Chesterian: Mississippian) of northern Arkansas. Karen McDonald (Department of Biology University of Central Arkansas), Ben Waggoner (Department of Biology University of Central Arkansas), John Harper (Pennsylvania Geological Survey) and Frederick H. C. Hotchkiss (MPRI). [ Link to draft preprint of the text and images of poster presented at the 2000 Geological Society of America meeting in Reno, Nevada, November 13-16, 2000. Abstract published in GSA Abstracts with Programs, vol. 32, no. 7, p. A-447.]

  • Isolated ossicles of the Family Eospondylidae Spencer & Wright, 1966, in the Lower Devonian of Bohemia (Czech Republic) and correction of the systematic position of eospondylid brittlestars (Echinodermata: Ophiuroidea: Oegophiurida). Research in progress. [F. H. C. Hotchkiss, MPRI, in collaboration with Dr. Rudolf J. Prokop, Museum of Natural History, National Museum, Praha, Czech Republic, and Dr. Vaclav Petr, Charles University, Praha, Czech Republic]

  • Diminutive ophiuroids from the upper Windsor Group (Lower Carboniferous: Late Viséan/Asbian) of Nova Scotia, Canada. F.H.C. Hotchkiss, MPRI, in collaboration with P. von Bitter, Royal Ontario Museum, toronto]. Poster presented The Eighth Canadian Paleontology Conference, Collingwood, 22-25 October 1998 [CPC Program and Abstracts No. 8, p. 11 (abstract)] [presented also at Royal Ontario Museum Twentieth Annual Research Colloquium, 18 November 1998, Toronto, Abstracts of Papers, p. 8 (abbreviated abstract).] Work in progress June 2008.

Phenomenology of ophiuroid beds

  • Pliocene ophiuroid bed, Baja, Mexico. René Lewis (Department of Geography and Geology, University of North Carolina, Wilmington). Link to project details page is under development.

Ordovician biodiversity

Fossil Record

  • Locality and species occurrence records of Carboniferous and Permian ophiuroids (Echinodermata): compilation, analysis and bibliography [F. H. C. Hotchkiss, MPRI]
  • Bdellacoma in the Hunsrück Slate (Lower Devonian, Germany): Reidentification of Urasterella verruculosa (Asteroidea, Bdellacomidae) [Alexander Glass, Department of Geological Sciences, Central Washington University, Ellensburg, WA and F. H. C. Hotchkiss, MPRI] Poster [approx. 16MB PDF, approx. ten minute download]. This is MPRI contribution No. 2, prepared for the 12th International Echinoderms Conference, UNH, Durham, 7 - 11 August 2006. Conference proceedings are still in process of publication (June 2008).

Starfish teratology, regeneration and autotomy

  • Starfish arm stumps: wound closure patterns and regeneration models. Work in progress April 2008. This is MPRI contribution No. 3, prepared for the Fifth North American Echinoderm Conference, Melbourne, Florida, July 2008, and also the 4th Workshop of German and Austrian Echinoderm Research, Vienna, October 2008.

sunflower sea star

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MPRI was not able to hold any events in 2020 but below is a summary of our past events.

2019 EVENTS:

In October, our annual National Fossil Day took place at the Oak Bluffs Public Library. See pictures from this event on the Oak Bluffs Library's Facebook page here.

In May, we took fossil programs for seniors to Windemere Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and in June to The Anchors Senior Center in Edgartown in collaboration with the Martha's Vineyard Center for Living and in collaboration with the MV Museum.

In April, Susie Bowman
and Fred Hotchkiss presented
Horseshoe Crabs: A Story of Beach Trysts and Blue Bloods,
a free lecture and slide show about lives and history of horseshoe crabs and opportunities to be involved in the Horseshoe Crab Citizen Science Survey Project -- at the West Tisbury, Edgartown and Oak Bluffs libraries

In March, we visited two 8th grade science classes of Mrs. Connie Alexander in Tisbury, bringing a range of fossils for study and discussion.

In March, we brought touchable fossils to preschoolers at the Island Children's School in West Tisbury.

In February, we visited the 7th grade science classes of Ms. Lea Dorr in Oak Bluffs as they studied geology and the history of beach pebbles found on the Vineyard.


Specimens purchased
with the help of our generous donors.

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