Paleontologists have figured out how trilobites mated thanks to unusual fossils

(ORDO NEWS) — American paleontologists from Harvard University, who studied an unusual fossil of trilobites of the species Olenoides serratus, who lived about 508 million years ago, during the Cambrian period, found a pair of short appendages on the lower part of their bodies, specially designed to hold females during mating. An article about this was published in the journal Geology.

The female O. serratus appeared to be positioned on the seafloor, the male perched on top of her, using his “clamps” to hold her body in position, a maneuver that placed him in the optimal mating position.

“It is important to hold the female so that the male is in the correct position,” explained lead author Sarah Losso, “because this increases the chances of successful fertilization of the egg by sperm. Such mechanisms increase the likelihood of successful mating.”

It is known that during the entire existence of the Earth, it was inhabited by more than 20 thousand species of trilobites, which evolved over 270 million years, until they all died out about 252 million years ago, at the end of the Permian period.

Fossils of O. serratus have been found for more than a century in the Burgess Formation Shale on the slopes of Mount Stephen in the Canadian Rocky Mountains’ Yoho National Park, one of the richest collections of Cambrian fossils.

This time, scientists turned to much less studied specimens found at the turn of the 21st century, finding an unusual “pair of legs” in them, shorter and narrower than pairs of legs in front and behind.

The experts were also surprised by the fact that these short appendages did not have spikes – a distinctive feature of other trilobite legs, which probably, among other things, helped this predator grind food.

The “mating strategy” once used by trilobites is now also seen in the horseshoe crab Limulus polyphemus, which is a very distant relative of trilobites, as well as in several other arthropod species.


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