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


Come celebrate National Fossil Day with MPRI at the Oak Bluffs Public Library -- Thursday, 17 October 2019, from 4pm to 7:45pm. This event is free and for all ages -- students to grandparents. We are thrilled to say that National Fossil Day on Martha’s Vineyard is partially supported by a grant from the Martha’s Vineyard Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

Looking back
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.

In February we served on the panel of judges at the MVRHS 2015 Science Fair. We also provided an MPRI Award which went to Patrick Best and Pearl Vercruysse.

In December we visited the MVRHS science class of Ms. Anna Cotton to incorporate SEA STARS into their studies of Island fisheries and Vineyard marine life.

In November MPRI Director Dr. Fred Hotchkiss received the Russel P. Stanhope Distinguished Friend of Science Award from the Massachusetts Association of Science Teachers (MAST), with huge thanks for being nominated by Tisbury 7th and 8th Grade Science Teacher Mrs. Connie Alexander.

Fossil Fred brought a carload of fossils to Mr. David Faber's 8th grade science classes, Wednesday, October 22, Edgartown School.

MPRI celebrated National Fossil Day on Martha’s Vineyard: Thursday October 16th in partnership with the Oak Bluffs Public Library and the National Parks Service. The event was free to all, and 230 children, parents, teachers and fossil enthusiasts participated.

We assisted in Archaeology ID Day at the Martha's Vineyard Museum, 30 August, and the public brought in great finds from around the Vineyard.

We presented a FAMILY-ORIENTED HANDS-ON-FOSSILS PROGRAM at the Edgartown Library on 5 August, with co-presenter biological oceanographer Wendy Culbert. Thirty-five persons, including 25 children, happily experienced fossils.

WE LED CITIZEN SCIENTIST volunteers doing horseshoe crab spawning surveys in May and June in Lake Tashmoo.

In May we visited the WEST TISBURY FOURTH GRADE classes of Rebecca Solway and Jen McHugh with buckets of sea water and LIVING SEA STARS

Horseshoe Crabs: A Story of Beach Trysts and Blue Bloods
3/20 at Oak Bluffs Library
3/25 at Vineyard Haven Library
4/9 at Chilmark Library
4/16 at Edgartown Library

MPRI was a sponsor of the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School
Science Fair,
8 February, 2014.

Looking back
Fossil Fred visited the 5th and 6th grade science classes of Ms Justen Walker and Ms Nicole Pereira on Monday, December 16th, 2013 in Westport, MA

Fossil Fred visited the West Tibury 1st grade class of Ms Tessa Wall on Friday, November 15, 2013

Looking back
the Fourth Annual NATIONAL FOSSIL DAY was celebrated at the OAK BLUFFS PUBLIC LIBRARY on Thursday, October 17, 2013, 4PM to 7:45PM. About 180 people came to the event.

Our latest newsletter
describes how our supporters further
our mission.

Site Update!


Specimens purchased
with the help of our generous donors.

 |  site map |  designed and hosted by