Digging Up The Facts of Trilobites

It isn't hard to fall for trilobites. These long extinct marine arthropods are the most common creatures in the fossil record and generally, the most well preserved. Aspiring fossil hunters can learn all about trilobites and see fossils from the Burgess Shale in Canada and sites across the United States.

Ancient Arthropods
Arthropods are segmented creatures, with jointed appendages and an exoskeleton. Trilobites are considered to have been among the earliest arthropods. Dating back some 540 million years, trilobites, probably the best known as ancient arthropods, can be found on all continents with Paleozoic rocks. First appearing in the Early Cambrian Period, they lived in shallow waters and either swam or walked on the bottom. With the Cambrian Period came an explosion of life for trilobites, before beginning to decline and finally becoming extinct towards the end of the Permian Period, almost 250 million years ago. The extinct arthropod class Trilobita (trilobites) consists of ten orders (some literature still uses the number nine) that can be identified by very distinct body shapes and parts.

  • Arthropod Museum: Head back to the past with arthropod images and cool video
  • Burgess Shale: The story of Charles Walcott, his panoramas and the discovery of the Burgess Shale
  • Paleozoic Grand Canyon: Geologic history found in the Grand Canyon, which you can scroll down to see and read about the trilobites of the Grand Canyon
  • Trilobite Locations: A clickable list of locations by state and Canadian province
  • Arthropoda: About the phylum Arthropoda at the Fossil Museum
  • Cambrian and Ordovician: Overview of the time of the trilobites during these two time periods
  • Geologic Time Setting: Learn about the time periods when trilobites thrived through this excerpt of a college course in historical geology
  • Trilobite Images: View photo albums of trilobites from collections around the world
  • Middle Ordovician Wales: A site with lots of information to explore, plus an image gallery with both photos and drawings

The Trilobite Body
Literally meaning three lobes, the word trilobite refers to the division of the main body into three longitudinal parts: one lobe in the center, with two flanking lobes. Though not the source of the name, trilobites are also divided into three parts from head (cephalon) to tail (pygidium) with a middle section called the thorax. Extinct trilobites had segmented limbs and a set of antennae and many had very complex eye structures. Body shape and size in trilobites varies greatly from order to order.

  • Trilobite Guide: All about the trilobite--body parts and shape in detail can be accessed through "Morphology" under the main menu. Also covers classification, paleobiology and more
  • The Trilobite Eye: (PDF Document) An in-depth paper on trilobite eyes. Great detail and graphics
  • Trilobites, a Web Paper: (PDF Document) Contains detailed images of trilobites
  • Trilobite Collection: Lots of beautiful images, includes Weeks trilobites, Waldren Shale fossils and Indiana trilobites
  • Moroccan Trilobites: A page about collecting Moroccan trilobites with great close-up images of the fossils
  • Russian Trilobites: Photos of specimens of the beautiful and prized Russian Ordovician trilobite
  • Trilobite Page: An introduction to trilobites, with a link to a summary of Richard Fortey's trilobite book
  • Introduction to Trilobita: Site offers the fossil record, life history and ecology, systemic and more on morphology. Links from trilobites to an introduction to arthropods in general
  • Lifestyles of the Trilobites: Chock-full of information and great graphics on the lifestyle of trilobites
  • Trilobite Discovery: The discovery and excavation of a giant trilobite
  • Trilobite Photos: Extensive gallery of trilobite fossil photos from around the world

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