© Craven & Pendle Geological Society

Introduction:  Crinoids are a special group of fossils that have attracted much local interest.  Although they are the least understood of living echinoderms, their skeletal remains are among the most abundant and important of fossils.  In Clitheroe they are exclusively Carboniferous in age, although they appeared during the Lower Ordovician and underwent several major radiations during the Paleozoic Era.

Coplow (45 nominal species), Salthill (34 nominal species) and Bellman Quarry (15 nominal species) are particularly well known local quarries where crinoids have been collected. Crinoids are curious in the sense that they have a 'plant-like' morphology but are without doubt animal.  For this reason crinoids became known as 'Sea Lilies'.  Many became extinct although one group managed to survive to the present day and indeed flourish.

Closely related to the crinoids were the Blastoids who arrived on the scene in the Lower Ordovician and became extinct in the Permian.  They were fairly abundant with two species being particularly prolific.

Actual fossil crinoids look very attractive especially when the stem, calyx (head or cup) and arms are preserved intact.  Here in the Clitheroe area this is seldom the case.  The limestones are crowded with fragmented crinoids and one is very fortunate today if a whole calyx is found.  Over the years the limestone quarries of Clitheroe have yielded an amazing variety of genera and species.  There is nowhere else in England that can compare to Clitheroe's rather unique assemblage.

Today crinoids can be found in both shallow and deep water, from Tropical to Polar seas. Nevertheless as you move towards the Equator their numbers and diversity increase. They are most abundant in the south-west Pacific, along the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.


Donovan, S.K. 1992. A field guide to the fossil echinoderms of Coplow, Bellman and Salthill Quarries, Clitheroe, Lancashire. North West Geologist, 2, 33-54.

Donovan, S. K., Lewis, D. N. and Kabrna, P. (2006). A Dense Epizoobiontic Infestation of a Lower Carboniferous crinoid (Amphoracrinus gilbertsoni PHILLIPS) by Oichnus paraboloides Bromley. Ichnos 13: 1 - 3

Donovan, S. K., Lewis, D. N. and Kabrna, P. (2005). An unusual crinoid-coral association from the Lower Carboniferous of Clitheroe, Lancashire. Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological Society, 55, Part 4, 301-304

Also acknowledged: Stanley Westhead for his amazing contribution to the understanding of the Crinoids of Clitheroe District. NELGGA Vol.2., Part 9., 1978.