The ‘trident’ trilobites of Morocco

Dr Kendal Martyn (UK) Spectacular “spiny” adaptations of the Devonian (about 380Ma) trilobites of Morocco are well known. Free-standing spines, sometimes up to one hundred on a single specimen, make for spectacular (if fragile) specimens. Historically, similar species were first recognised way back in the 1880s by the classic work of Barrande on the fossils of Bohemia (in what is now the Czech Republic). Fig. 1. Walliserops issimourensis. More recently, the large-scale commercial digging of trilobites in the Anti-Atlas of Morocco, coupled with improved preparation techniques, has produced a wealth of information and new forms. As the digging around Djebel Issimour got tougher during the mid-late 1990s, this lead to people digging further afield. Near Foum Zguid, they found something new – a trilobite with a trident. Fig. 2. Walliserops issimourensis. Now called Walliserops trifercatus (Morzadec, 2001), many features relate this trilobite to more widespread asteropygid trilobites such as Comura bultynki and Quadrops flexuosa (also known as Phyllonix phyllonix). Fig. 3. Quadrops flexuosa. Walliserops trifurcatus is hard to find: one person, one week (full time) for one specimen (often incomplete). In fact, getting hold of a complete specimen is hard: getting it out of the rock without butchering it is harder still (see an unprepared trilobite and you’ll see what I mean). Fig. 4. Walliserops sp. Debate started almost immediately on the purpose of the trident: hood ornament; antler; defensive spear; sensory organ or feeding aid. Discovery of a smaller, short-trident form at the same locality, Walliserops sp., suggested sexual … Read More

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