Wenlock creatures: Trilobites

Calymene blumenbachii

The trilobite shown in the image, Calymene, has large, powerful eyes which helped it to detect and catch prey.

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Calymene blumenbachii

Trilobites could roll up to protect their soft underparts, in the same way that woodlice roll up when threatened. This image shows Calymene rolled up.

What are Trilobites?

Trilobites are closely related to crustaceans such as lobsters and crabs. Although they lived in the sea, they looked very similar to modern woodlice, with segmented bodies, many jointed legs and hard, external skeletons.

Trilobites are extinct today but were very common in the geological past. The outer skeleton contained calcium carbonate, and so could become fossilised when the soft parts of the animal rotted away. Like modern crustaceans they grew by shedding their hard exoskeleton. Footprint trails left by trilobites moving over soft mud and sand have also been found fossilised in rocks.

DietThe earliest trilobites were predators, catching worms and other soft animals. Others fed on tiny pieces of food on the sea bed, or filtered food out of the sea water

Key facts about Wenlock trilobites

Reef dwellerTrilobites lived on the Wenlock Reef, catching smaller creatures or feeding on detritus.

Abundance through geological time

AbundanceTrilobites were most abundant from the Cambrian to Devonian and became extinct at the end of the Permian.

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