The Sun Star enjoyed a wide distribution along both American coasts until the Isthmus of Panama formed 3-4 million years ago. Afterward, many East Coast species went extinct, including the Sun star. The species still thrives today along the Pacific Coast of North and South America.
Collected from a construction excavation in El Jobean, Florida, by Bill and Lelia Brayfield in the 1980s, this cluster of Sun stars named Heliaster microbrachius came to the Florida Museum after residing in the Brayfield’s vegetable garden.
While the occurrence of complete fossil sea stars are rare, it is perhaps the biogeographic implications of these specimens which are most interesting. Heliaster microbrachius enjoyed a wide distribution along the west and east coasts of the Americas up until a few million years ago when the uplift of the Central American Isthmus likely caused this, and many other Florida fossil species with Pacific affinities, to go locally extinct. However, this species can still be found living today along rocky shorelines of the west coast of North and South America.
Collection Manager, Invertebrate Paleontology
Florida Museum of Natural History
Sun Star Fossil (Heliaster microbrachius)
From Charlotte Co., Florida
Lived ~5–2.5 million years ago (Pliocene)
Ancient Sea Life