Tropical Reefs

Silurian Period 410-440 million years ago

Silurian rocks, particularly those in Europe and North America, offer a vivid image of oceans teeming with life on the sea floor and the development of large and complex reef structures. Reefs are the underwater equivalent of tropical rainforests providing shelter for an enormous diversity of life including some of the earliest types of fish. This diversity is reflected in this part of the museum with specimens such as trilobites and crinoids. Many of the fossils on display are from rocks of the Wenlock Limestone around the English town of Dudley in the West Midlands.

'Dudley bug'
In the 19th Century, beautifully preserved trilobites of Silurian age were found at Wren's Nest, Dudley, near Birmingham. Trilobite fossils, known as Dudley 'bug's, were sufficiently emblemaic to be adopted as part of the town's coat of arms. Well preserved specimens were particularly prized by fossil collectors.
The bivalved shells of brachiopods are common fossils throughout the 300 million years of the Palaeozoic Era, and brachiopods still survive in modern seas but are very much reduced in numbers. Mostly brachiopod shells are just a centimeter or so in size. Many of them lived attached to the seabed by a fleshy stalk and filtered minute particles of food from the seawater.

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