What could be better on a lazy Christmas day than another edition of the science word of the day? Well, perhaps you'd better not answer that and just attend to today's bon mots:
Today I've got two:
crinoid and echinoderm.
Modern starfish are among the phylum of the echinoderms. My vacation from the diamond mines has afforded some minutes to browse the latest issue of the Smithsonian magazine, where there is an intriquing account of evidence for evolution (creationists and agnostics take note!) in the fossil record of crinoids (echinoderms). (See "Caught in the Act! Ancient Sea Life Evolves." Smithsonian, January 2005.)
In response to the inroads of more and more aggressive predators (shell-crushing sharks known as placoderms), the crinoids evolved spines and armor to survive (think sea urchin). Pretty clever, eh? We're talking about around 300 million years ago, when sugar plums and the like were the last thing on anyone's mind.
I can't resist one last little geeky trivia tidbit: Crinoid arms were made of calcite. Yum!