This is an amazingly rare, fossil Paradoxides contrafaco trilobite preserved in Baltic amber. Only a handful of these amazingly detailed specimens have ever been found. Even the finely preserved soft bodied parts such as legs and gills can easily be seen. It’s a little known fact that during the Eocene period trilobites move out of the oceans taking on an arboreal lifestyle.
Trilobites are found all over the world. From the sun-baked rocks of Emu Bay in southern Australia, to the rugged steppes of northern Siberia, to right-off-the-highway destinations in central Ohio, trilobite fossils cover the globe! Among the most famous of these Paleozoic outcrops is one located in the Czech Republic. There, for hundreds of years, an amazingly rich trilobite fauna has been drawn from what is known as the Barrandian assemblage—named after French scientist Jaochim Barrande, who wrote one of the first books about trilobites in the mid-19th century. Trilobites such as this Cambrian-age Paradoxides gracilis have made Czech trilobites among the most renowned in the world.
If that’s the word: The song’s already gone Before it’s uttered so the ear is left Full of its emptiness, Bereft. It
seems the loon opens its throat to some old elemental wind, it seems that time has finally found a syrinx and for a moment lets itself be voice.
Don McKay, from “Song for the Song of the Common Loon,” Paradoxides:
Poems (McClelland & Stewart, 2012)
It’s time for Trilobite Tuesday! This week we feature the Middle Cambrian genus Paradoxides. This particular example hails from the 500 million year old layers of Sweden’s Borgholm formation and is 9 inches in length. Paradoxides is of particular significance because different species have been found in such diverse locations as Newfoundland, Morocco, Massachusetts and the Czech Republic. This geographical diversity provides evidence for the scientific theories of Plate Tectonics and Continental Drift.
Closely related species of the 510 million year old trilobite Paradoxides have been found in such disparate locations as Eastern Canada, Sweden, Wales, the Czech Republic and Morocco. How can fossils of the same trilobite genus exist in Middle Cambrian rocks that are now thousands of miles apart? After all, it is believed that trilobites were relatively territorial animals, with their lives controlled by such factors as the depth and temperature of their aquatic environment. So how did the fossilized remains of similar trilobite species, such as the pictured Paradoxides davidis’ from Wales (left) and Newfoundland (right), find themselves in such diverse corners of the globe?
As it happens, the answer has to do with Plate Tectonics and Continental Drift. These concepts explain how over an extended period of time continents move across the earth’s outer crust, often propelled by volcanic forces at play along the key fault lines that lie directly under the planet’s surface. And correspondingly, as these continents continue to shift their global position ever-so-slowly during the passage of countless millennia, so do the trilobite fossils contained within their sedimentary layers.
One man’s dump is another man’s Trilobite Tuesday treasure!
The first trilobites discovered near Conception Bay, Newfoundland, were uncovered in 1874 by a survey team working under the auspices of the Geological Survey of Canada, and subsequently abandoned. But by the time professor Riccardo Levi-Setti stumbled upon the then long-abandoned outcrop of Middle Cambrian rocks along the Manuels River in the mid-1970s, the area had been converted into a makeshift garbage dump. After moving some of the rusting hulks of refrigerators and washing machines, however, Levi-Setti was able to uncover a layer of 510 million year-old mudstone that was filled with magnificent examples of large Paradoxides trilobites, like the pictured Paradoxides trapezopyge. Not only were these specimens aesthetically pleasing, they also proved to be of scientific importance, helping lend additional support to the theory of Plate Tectonics.