Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Finding echoes in the rocks from before Dinosaurs walked the Earth

During the Palaeozoic Era (spanning from 541 to 252.17 million years ago) this Trilobite died and drifted down to the bottom of a muddy, shallow sea where soft tissues quickly decompose leaving the hard exoskeleton which was covered in fine sediment and silt. Over time the sediment built over the body, layer upon layer compressing and eventually hardening into rock. As the encased body decays, minerals seep in replacing the organic material cell by cell in a process called "petrification." 

On Sunday 4th Sept 2016 about half a billion years since its death, I discovered this beautiful specimen at a local car boot sale. It drew me like a bee to honey. Since I was a small boy I've remained fascinated, even obsessed with all prehistoric life and the evidence left behind. I have many beautiful specimens but this quite large example will spend the next blink of geological time sitting on our fireplace.

Below is an artist's impression of what this animal would have looked like in life, swimming around, looking for food, mating and breeding and doing trilobite things as trilobites did. Of all the 100's of different and varied trilobite species discovered in the fossil record, none now remain, they are all a very long time extinct. If this fact wasn't so I'd have a large fish tank full of them.  

If I had a time machine one of the locations in ancient time I would visit would have been back to the Cambrian explosion (541 million to 485.4 million years ago) with a wetsuit, diving gear a collecting net. They remind me of giant, aquatic woodlouse and I've always had a soft spot for woodlouse much to the bewilderment of my better half.

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