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Temporal range: 488–443Ma Ordovician
Astraspis desiderata.jpg
Astraspis desiderata
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Pteraspida
Subclass: Astraspida
Order: Astraspidiformes
Genus: Astraspis

Astraspis desiderata

Astraspis ('star shield') is an extinct genus of primitive jawless fish from the Ordovician of Central North America and Bolivia (Gagnier, 1993) . It is related to other Ordovician fishes, such as the South American Sacabambaspis, and the Australian Arandaspis.

Basic Anatomy[edit]

Nearly complete fossils suggest the living animals were about 200 mm (7.9 in) in length. The body had a mobile tail covered with small protective plate-like scales of less than 1 mm (0.039 in) and a forebody covered with plate-like scales larger than 2 mm (0.079 in). The specimen from North America (described by Sansom et al., 1997) is to have had relatively large, laterally-positioned eyes and a series of eight gill openings on each side. The specimen was generally oval in cross-section. The protective bony plates covering the animal were composed of aspidin (chemically similar to modern shark's teeth), covered by tubercles composed of dentine.[1] It is from these tubercles (which are generally star-shaped) that the name 'Astraspis' (literally "star-shield") is derived.

In popular culture[edit]

It has a small cameo in the 2003 BBC series Sea Monsters: A Walking with Dinosaurs Trilogy, a spin-off to the famed Walking with Dinosaurs, where Nigel Marven uses a dead Astraspis as bait to attract a sea scorpion. The creature is identified in the series' novelisation. It is also said to be an armour-plated fish in the documentary, whereas is more closely related to the modern lamprey. Astraspis was also featured in Animal Armageddon.


  1. ^ Sansom IJ, Smith MP, Smith MM and Turner P (1997) "Astraspis: The anatomy and histology of an Ordovician fish" Palaeontology, 40 (3): 625–642.

Other sources[edit]

Michael J. Benton, Vertebrate Palaeontology, 3rd edition, 2005

External links[edit]