Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Fossils record reveals ancient migrations, trilobite mass matings

Date:
March 17, 2011
Source:
University of Cincinnati
Summary:
Fossilized snapshots are providing paleontologists with new insights into the behavior of ancient marine creatures. 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.

This cluster of Devonian trilobites suggests a mass gathering for molting and mating.
Credit: Carlton E. Brett

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."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Cincinnati. The original article was written by Greg Hand. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Cincinnati. "Fossils record reveals ancient migrations, trilobite mass matings." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110316152939.htm>.
University of Cincinnati. (2011, March 17). Fossils record reveals ancient migrations, trilobite mass matings. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110316152939.htm
University of Cincinnati. "Fossils record reveals ancient migrations, trilobite mass matings." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110316152939.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) A 380-million-year-old fish may be the first creature to have copulative sex - and it was side by side with arms linked, like square dancers. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) With Sweden on the look-out for a suspected Russian sub, a lot of people are talking about the Cold War, but is it an apt comparison? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) Researchers believe an extinct kangaroo species weighed 500 pounds or more and couldn't hop. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
1000-Year-Old Viking Treasure Hoard Found in Scotland

1000-Year-Old Viking Treasure Hoard Found in Scotland

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 14, 2014) A hoard of Viking artifacts dating back over 1,000 years is discovered by a treasure hunter with a metal detector in Scotland. Elly Park reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins