Trilobite #3

15

Trilobite

spray paint on 3/4 inch plywood

18 x 24 inches

This painting is based on the fossil finds of a real trilobite.

 Species: Boedaspis ensifer

When: Ordovician (over 500 million years ago)

Location: near St. Petersburg, Russia

Size: 2.2 inches long

Trilobites (meaning three lobes) are a well known group of fossilized animals. Though classification has been debated, it is, at leas,t agreed that they are primitive marine arthropods (Phylum Athropoda). They evolved during the early Cambrian (around 550 million years ago) during the first period of rapid diversification of animal body plans known as the “Cambrian Explosion”. They were widespread, common, and lasted for over 270 million years. This long period of evolving forms of trilobites (over 17,000 species) combined with their ease of fossilization has resulted in significant contributions to biostratigraphy, paleontology, evolutionary biology, and plate tectonics.

Though long extinct, it appears as though they had many different lifestyles, ranging from scavengers to predators, to filter feeders. Some moved over the sea bed while others swam freely, feeding on plankton. The function of the long spines found on some trilobites, such as Boedaspis ensifer (in your painting), is still under debate. One of the foremost thoughts is that, like some horned beetles, frontal spines may have been used to compete for mates.

The exact cause of trilobite extinction is unknown. We do know that they disappeared, along with most of the marine life, in a mass extinction at the end of the Permian, 250 million years ago. The horseshoe crab may be the closest surviving relative of the trilobites.

Inspiration: There have been a lot of bizarre  trilobite fossils discovered in recent years . This one is one of the most elegantly-spined trilobites I’ve ever seen. Trilobite cocktail, anyone?