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Bicknell et al., 2023c

Malformed trilobites from the Cambrian, Ordovician, and Silurian of Australia

Bicknell, R. D. C., Smith, P. M., Paterson, J. R.
Typearticle in journal


Biomineralised remains of trilobites provide important insight into the evolutionary history of a diverse, extinct group of arthropods. Their exoskeletons are also ideal for recording malformations, including evidence of post-injury repair. Re-examination of historic collections and the study of new specimens is important for enhancing knowledge on trilobite malformations across this diverse clade. To expand the records of these abnormalities and present explanations for their formation, we document eight malformed trilobite specimens, as well as one carcass, housed within the Commonwealth Palaeontological Collection at Geoscience Australia in Canberra. We present examples of Asthenopsis, Burminresia, Centropleura, Coronocephalus, Dolicholeptus, Galahetes, Papyriaspis, and Xystridura from Cambrian, Ordovician, and Silurian deposits of Australia. Most of the malformed specimens show W-, U-, or L-shaped indentations that reflect injuries from either failed predation or complications during moulting, and a mangled carcass is ascribed to either successful predation or post-mortem scavenging. We also uncover examples of teratologies, such as bifurcated pygidial ribs and pygidial asymmetry, in addition to evidence of abnormal recovery (i.e., fusion of thoracic segments) from a traumatic incident.

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