Trilobite fossil discovered with its last meal still visible inside: ScienceAlert

For about 250 million years, some 20,000 strange species of trilobites have crept across the floor of the Earth’s ocean. Despite the enormous abundance of these diverse animals in our fossil records, much of their basic biology remains unclear, such as what they ate.

Until now, trilobite diets have only been inferred from indirect evidence, but researchers have just discovered the first trilobite specimen that still bears signs of its final meals frozen in time.

The complete Bohemolicas incola The trilobites are preserved in fine three-dimensional detail within a shell of siliceous pebbles called Rokycany spheres. Inside this stunning 465-million-year-old specimen, gastrointestinal paleontologist Peter Kraft of Charles University in the Czech Republic and his colleagues found tightly packed shell fragments.

Ventral view of a trilobite, with golden mouthparts and food particles of different colors (Kraft et al., nature2023)

The researchers explained that the shells showed no signs of melting with their sharp edges remaining intact, indicating that the trilobite’s digestive system was not acidic but rather neutral or basic along its entire length. This is the modern way Crustaceans And Spiders They also carry out the process of digestion, and they are animals that belong to two different modern groups competing for the closest relatives of the trilobites.

Almost the entire digestive tract was full, with some parts still large enough to be recognizable. All those bits and pieces of trilobite prey belong to benthic invertebrates that lived on the sea floor during the Ice Age. Ordovician.

The most common shell fragments were shell shells. Small shrimp-like crustaceans, some of whose descendants are still alive today.

False-color computerized images of molecules in the digestive system
Survey of digestive contents (above). Below, stylophoran echinoderms are in red, hyolith shells are in purple, and necrotic fragments are in blue (Kraft et al., nature2023)

Trilobites were also devoured Heolith Snails are called conchs, extinct starfish and sea urchin relatives stylophora and other thin-shelled animals that were likely bivalves.

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“Non-selective feeding behaviour B. Incola “It suggests he was mostly an opportunistic scavenger,” the team said Write in their paper. “B.IncolThey can be thought of as a light shell crusher and feeder, feeding on dead or living animals that were either easily disintegrated or small enough to be swallowed whole.

The trilobite’s complete digestive system, along with some deformities in its thorax, indicate that the animal may have been about to… falling.

Arthropods must change their shell shape Exoskeleton To grow, in a process called molting. Before molting, an arthropod’s digestive system often swells to help push out the old “shell” and make room for the new one.

“We suggest that the feeding behavior of trilobites may have resembled the corresponding life cycles of modern crustaceans,” Kraft and his team said We conclude.

“Most of the time, the intestine was empty or moderately full, with occasional excessive and rapid feedings associated with specialized physiological demands.”

Their research has been published in nature.

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