Patterns and processes of heterochrony in Mesozoic goniasterid sea-stars



Heterochronic processes are obvious in the most common family of Mesozoic asteroids, the Goniasteridae, whether studied from entire fossils or, as is more frequently the case, from isolated ossicles. When phylogeny is poorly known, comparison between species leads to such unsatisfactory interpretations as ‘A is more paedomorphic than B’ or ‘C, compared with other species, has many peramorphic characters’. When the phylogeny is known, heterochronic trends appear amongst the lineages. The peramorphocline Metopaster parkinsoni - M. loirensis-M. trichilae-M. chilipora-M. hypertelicus is studied here from the Cenomanian to the Upper Campanian of France. Different morphological characters evolved at different speeds. Among each polymorphous population, some morphotypes foreshadowed the next step. Juveniles of one species look like the adults of one of the ascendants. The cline developed irrespective of the substrate, and proceeded together with a migration from the Anglo-Paris Basin to the Aquitanian Basin. Metopaster hunteri, during the Coniacian, and Metopaster meudonensis, during the Upper Campanian, both evolved from Metopaster parkinsoni by neoteny, and provide a good example of reiterated and canalized morphological evolution. Some non-heterochronic canalizations are described.