FIELD GUIDES: Trilobite Junction

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Science  08 Jun 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5523, pp. 1803
DOI: 10.1126/science.292.5523.1803d

The animals known as trilobites died out ages ago, and at first glance they all look a lot like a cross between a horseshoe crab and a pill bug from your garden. But that doesn't stop paleobiologists and fossil collectors from being fascinated by this diverse group of prehistoric arthropods. A Guide to the Orders of Trilobites, maintained by Sam Gon III, a scientist in Hawaii, offers a huge compendium of trilobite lore and images.

At least 15,000 species of trilobites lived over 300 million years ago in the Paleozoic oceans; their hard shells left plenty of fossils. The site's Frequently Asked Questions cover topics such as the critters' size (1 millimeter to half a meter), detailed morphology, phylogeny, and feeding habits (trilobites ranged from zooplankton predators to detritus scavengers). Fact sheets illustrated with Gon's own line drawings describe each of the eight trilobite orders, while galleries feature photos culled from other Web sites. Gon, who based the site on two trilobite treatises, is a biologist with The Nature Conservancy in Hawaii, but he cautions that he's merely an “enthusiastic amateur” trilobitologist.

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