Indiana University Bloomington

News and Outreach Events 2015

January

A bill has been introduced in the Indiana Legislature to designate a state fossil for Indiana: the elegant sea lily, Elegantocrinus hemisphaericus.
elegant sea lily

Elegantocrinus hemisphaericus, the Elegant sea lily, is a crinoid, a group of animals that are related to starfish and sea urchins. Elegantocrinus was first discovered at Crawfordsville, Indiana in 1865.

This crinoid was first described from the famous Mississippian-aged Borden Group crinoid beds at Crawfordsville, Indiana. Originally classified in the genus Platycrinites, the species was moved to the new genus Elegantocrinus by department alum Bill Ausich (now of Ohio State University) and Tom Kammer. The platycrinid group is distinctive in having oval shaped columnals, which are the round bits that made up the stem of the crinoid, common around Monroe Lake and elsewhere. E. hemisphaericus itself is also found at Monroe Lake. Here’s a PDF file with more information about the fossil.

The 500 Earth Sciences Club and the Indiana Society of Paleontology are the groups that have worked to push the bill forward. Both sites have a photo of a beautiful calyx of E. hemisphaericus on their homepage. The bill is SB114, which is introduced by the bipartisan pair of Mark Stoops (District 40 - Bloomington’s senator) and Philip Boots (District 23 - Crawfordville’s senator) can be viewed here. SB114 has initially been assigned to the senate rules committee.

David Bish and colleagues
Evolution of the snake body form reveals homoplasy in amniote Hox gene function

From the Bloomington Newsroom: Skeleton study sheds new light on how snakes evolved

Research by paleontologists at Indiana University and the University of Nebraska sheds new light on how snakes evolved their elongated, legless bodies.

Hox genes, which establish the boundaries of the neck, trunk, lumbar, sacral and tail regions in birds, lizards, crocodiles and mammals, were previously thought to have been disrupted in snakes, resulting in a loss of regions in their seemingly simplified body form as they evolved from four-legged lizard ancestors.

P. David Polly of Indiana University and Jason Head of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln examined regional differences in the shapes of individual vertebral bones in snakes, lizards, alligators and mice. Snakes are different from these other amniote groups in that they lack forelimbs, shoulder girdles and sternal skeletons. Snake vertebrae were assumed to have become less regionalized when the limbs were lost. IU Newsroom article and the Nature article

We look back on the events of 2014 and look forward to an exciting new year in the Department. (News archives)

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