Echinoid Micraster fossil Isle of Wight Cretaceous
Echinoids, which are related to sea-urchins, lived in the seas 450 million years ago – Ordovician period. They were/are marine animals with a hard shell and many small tubercles. Some of these species also had spines. The spines were used for moving around and protection against their predators, as some were/are poison-tipped.
The remains and traces of these animals were buried in sediment that later hardened into rock, preserving them as fossils, despite their alien appearance, echinoids, or sea-urchins as they are better known, are very common in the seas and oceans of today making these common fossils too.
In England, echinoids have been previously called Sugar Loaves, Fairy Loaves, Shepherd's Crowns and even Pixies' Helmets. In the past these fossils were used as charms it was thought that fairy loaves protected families against witchcraft, so they always have bread. They were once frequently displayed on the windowsills of Sussex cottages as good luck charms, to protect the cottage from being struck by lightning, or for predicting rain.
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