Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Persistent and widespread occurrence of bioactive quinone pigments during post-Paleozoic crinoid diversification.

PMID 25730856


Secondary metabolites often play an important role in the adaptation of organisms to their environment. However, little is known about the secondary metabolites of ancient organisms and their evolutionary history. Chemical analysis of exceptionally well-preserved colored fossil crinoids and modern crinoids from the deep sea suggests that bioactive polycyclic quinones related to hypericin were, and still are, globally widespread in post-Paleozoic crinoids. The discovery of hypericinoid pigments both in fossil and in present-day representatives of the order Isocrinida indicates that the pigments remained almost unchanged since the Mesozoic, also suggesting that the original color of hypericinoid-containing ancient crinoids may have been analogous to that of their modern relatives. The persistent and widespread occurrence, spatially as well as taxonomically, of hypericinoid pigments in various orders during the adaptive radiation of post-Paleozoic crinoids suggests a general functional importance of the pigments, contributing to the evolutionary success of the Crinoidea.