New Sea Star species named after Loisette Marsh AM

Loisette Marsh AM was a pioneering coral and starfish expert who worked for the WA Museum for over 20 years and was WA Museum’s Head of Marine Invertebrate Zoology from 1978 to 1993. After her retirement, she continued as a Research Associate of the Museum, working on echinoderms (sea stars, brittle stars, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, sand dollars and crinoids). In 2020, at the age of 90, Loisette published her magnum opus, a comprehensive book on her beloved sea stars, co-authored with Dr Jane Fromont, entitled Field Guide to the Seastars of Australia.

The 13 taxa (1 genus and 12 species) named after her during her lifetime are testament to her inspirational career and legacy.

Now, a 14th species has been named after her: Dr Chris Mah, one of the world’s leading experts on sea stars (Asteroidea), visited the WA Museum in early 2023 to undertake a month-long laboratory-based investigation of the Museum’s Asteroidea collection. His aim was to explore registered and legacy material in the WA Museum collection in order to identify new genera and species and publish their taxonomic descriptions.

Dr Mah has published the first paper resulting from his visit, in which he describes two new species in the Odontasteridae sea star family. He named one of them, a “toothless” odontasterid, Marshastra loisetteae, in honour of Loisette Marsh. This sea star has been found along the WA coast from Cape Leeuwin to Kalbarri, and in the Perth Canyon.

We love Dr Mah’s choice of name – it’s wonderful to see Loisette Marsh’s legacy continuing to grow!

Dr Mah’s work with Western Australian Museum was made possible by a Foundation for the WA Museum Minderoo Grant, funded from the Foundation’s Discovery Endowment Fund.