Few specimens inspire greater thrills among fossil collectors than a complete trilobite. These ancient arthropods – relatives of lobsters, spiders and insects – went extinct more than 250 million years ago, but are sometimes found in beautifully preserved condition.
In rare instances, an entire population of trilobites is found fossilized together. Carlton E. Brett finds evidence for ancient environment and behavior in these mass graves.Brett, University of Cincinnati professor of geology, will present his findings March 20 at the Geological Society of America regional meeting in Pittsburgh, in a paper co-authored with Adrian Kin of Poland’s Institute of Geological Sciences at Jagiellonian University, and Brenda Hunda of the Cincinnati Museum Center.
In a quest that has taken him from Oklahoma to Morocco and Poland, Brett has analyzed multiple examples of mass trilobite burial. A smothering death by tons of hurricane-generated storm sediment was so rapid that the trilobites are preserved in life position. These geologic “snapshots” record behavior in much the way that ancient Roman life was recorded at Pompeii by volcanic ash.Burial was rapid, Brett said, but also somewhat delicate. Trilobites, like other arthropods, shed their hard exoskeletons from time to time.
“We find molted pieces lying immediately adjacent to each other,” he said. “This is proof that the sediments were not significantly disturbed after burial.”
Like modern crabs and lobsters, trilobites appear to have gathered in large groups for protection when they shed their protective exoskeletons. During molting, there was safety in numbers. And, like their modern cousins, trilobites seem to have used these molting gatherings as opportunities for mating.
The mass burials preserve large groups of similar-sized – and therefore similarly aged – specimens, segregated by species and, after molting, “naked.”
“It’s an orgy,” Brett said.
Brett and colleagues found evidence of another behavioral connection to modern arthropods – long chains of trilobites apparently fossilized in mid-migration.
“The recent discovery of rows of more than a dozen specimens provides the oldest evidence of migratory queues similar to those seen in modern crustaceans,” Brett said.
Taken together, the mass burials record an array of communal behaviors in ancient trilobites, comparable to those seen in some living crustaceans.
“Such evidence points to complex synchronized escape and reproductive behavior,” Brett said. “This provides extraordinary insights into the paleobiology of these ancient organisms.”
UC's paleontology program was again ranked sixth in the nation by U.S. News on March 15, 2011.
Greg Hand | EurekAlert!
Algorithm provides early warning system for tracking groundwater contamination
14.08.2018 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Artificial Glaciers in Response to Climate Change?
10.08.2018 | Universität Heidelberg
Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.
When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...
Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.
Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....
Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.
Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...
Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur
What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that...
The quality of materials often depends on the manufacturing process. In casting and welding, for example, the rate at which melts solidify and the resulting microstructure of the alloy is important. With metallic foams as well, it depends on exactly how the foaming process takes place. To understand these processes fully requires fast sensing capability. The fastest 3D tomographic images to date have now been achieved at the BESSY II X-ray source operated by the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin.
Dr. Francisco Garcia-Moreno and his team have designed a turntable that rotates ultra-stably about its axis at a constant rotational speed. This really depends...
08.08.2018 | Event News
27.07.2018 | Event News
25.07.2018 | Event News
14.08.2018 | Information Technology
14.08.2018 | Life Sciences
14.08.2018 | Life Sciences