By Chelsea Reed
Say hello to the trilobite! These fossils are found everywhere in the world. Scientists think this aquatic creature was the most successful to live on planet Earth. Trilobites were on every continent except Antarctica, and they lived for eons. They dwelled in all kinds of prehistoric oceans, lakes and rivers. If a trilobite fossil could talk today, what clues would it tell us? Let’s take an archaeological adventure and find out!
Trilobites not only survived in prehistoric Earth, they thrived. They lived through at least six time periods, from the Cambrian to the Permian. That’s longer than any species ever lived, including the dinosaurs! A trilobite would probably outrun every contestant on the TV show Survivor. The seafloor and river bed were its primary habitats.
The trilobite was the first known creature to have complex eyes like today’s birds, reptiles, and mammals. Its tough exoskeleton was the perfect armor to survive the marine elements. This skin protected its soft body, and it could curl into a ball for defense. When a trilobite grew, it shed its shell away like a crab, and a new one hardened. Most trilobite fossils are the exoskeleton left behind. Trilobite fossils with the whole body intact are rare and more valuable.
If you invited a trilobite family over for Thanksgiving dinner, get ready to have company! The trilobite family tree has amazing diversity. There are ten orders, thousands of genera, and over 20,000 species of trilobite fossils discovered! Sometimes a trilobite gets mistaken as a spider. But it’s not related to the spider at all. A trilobite was its own unique animal. Its closest living relative today is the horseshoe crab.
You would be challenged to plan the menu for a trilobite Thanksgiving dinner. Some species ate plants and seaweed, while others preferred prey. Larger trilobites even hunted smaller trilobites. Some trilobite fossils have teeth marks on them! These fossils are prized specimens among collectors. If you find such a fossil, you are very fortunate.
It took a lot for the trilobites to finally become extinct. They survived through multiple mass extinctions, but their numbers gradually declined after each event. By the Permian period, only one trilobite species remained. When they perished, a new prehistoric era began - the dawn of the dinosaurs.
How did the trilobites become extinct? It’s a mystery today. Some scientists think that methane and sulphuric gases from underwater volcanoes were the culprit. Others surmise rising ocean temperatures, or a giant meteor crash. Or perhaps, it was all of the above. Who knows what it could have been!
We might not be able to invite a trilobite to Thanksgiving, but a trilobite fossil is an awesome collector’s item at home. Shop the complete fossil collection right here at Michael’s Gems & Glass. Fossils are easy online purchases at home. They’re a great teaching tool for children!
Chelsea Reed is a copywriter who writes online content, articles, blogs, and websites from her base in North Carolina.