A trilobite fossil from the Australian Museum here in Sydney; another request from Metatron, my little boy.
Trilobites (“three-lobes”) are a well-known fossil group of extinct marine arthropods that form the class Trilobita. Trilobites first appear in the fossil record during the Early Cambrian period (540 million years ago) and flourished throughout the lower Paleozoic era before beginning a drawn-out decline to extinction when, during the Devonian, all trilobite orders, with the sole exception of Proetida, died out. Trilobites finally disappeared in the mass extinction at the end of the Permian about 250 million years ago.
When trilobites first appeared they were already highly diverse and geographically dispersed. Because trilobites had wide diversity and an easily fossilized exoskeleton an extensive fossil record was left, with some 17,000 known species spanning Paleozoic time. Trilobites have provided important contributions to biostratigraphy, paleontology, evolutionary biology and plate tectonics. Trilobites are often placed within the arthropod subphylum Schizoramia within the superclass Arachnomorpha (equivalent to the Arachnata),although several alternative taxonomies are found in the literature.
Trilobites had many life styles; some moved over the sea-bed (benthic) as predators, scavengers or filter feeders and some swam (pelagic) feeding on plankton. Most life styles expected of modern marine arthropods are seen in trilobites, except for parasitism.
Some trilobites (particularly the family Olenida) are even thought to have evolved a symbiotic relationship with sulfur-eating bacteria from which they derived food.Despite their rich fossil record with thousands of genera found throughout the world, the taxonomy and phylogeny of trilobites have many uncertainties.The systematic division of trilobites into nine distinct orders is represented by a widely held view that will inevitably change as new data emerges. Except possibly for the members of order Phacopida, all trilobite orders appeared prior to the end of the Cambrian. Most scientists believe that order Redlichiida, and more specifically its suborder Redlichiina, contains a common ancestor of all other orders, with the possible exception of the Agnostina. While many potential phylogenies are found in the literature, most have suborder Redlichiina giving rise to orders Corynexochida and Ptychopariida during the Lower Cambrian, and the Lichida descending from either the Redlichiida or Corynexochida in the Middle Cambrian. Order Ptychopariida is the most problematic order for trilobite classification. In the 1959 Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology,what are now members of orders Ptychopariida, Asaphida, Proetida, and Harpetida were grouped together as order Ptychopariida; subclass Librostoma was erected in 1990to encompass all of these orders, based on their shared ancestral character of a natant (unattached) hypostome. The most recently recognized of the nine trilobite orders, Harpetida, was erected in 2002.The progenitor of order Phacopida is unclear.