14 June 2024
3D preservation of trilobite soft tissues sheds light on convergent evolution of defensive enrollment

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Hidden for over a century in the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, a set of unique trilobite fossils with preserved soft tissues has been examined by Ph.D. candidate Sarah Losso. Her groundbreaking study not only uncovers details of the ancient creatures’ defensive behaviors but also offers a glimpse into the phenomenon of convergent evolution.

Hey everyone! Have you ever wondered about those ancient critters called trilobites? These cool little guys are like the rock stars of the Paleozoic Era—imagine a time way, way before dinosaurs roamed, about 451 to 462 million years ago. They’re like those tough bugs you might find under a rock, but these ones could roll up into a ball to dodge danger, just like a woodlouse or an armadillo does today.

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So, here’s the scoop: Sarah Losso, a super smart researcher, was digging through some really old collections at Harvard and found something jaw-dropping—trilobites with their soft parts preserved in 3D. That’s like finding a perfectly detailed toy in an ancient cereal box; it’s incredibly rare!

These trilobites had a nifty trick up their… um, segments. They could tuck in their legs and roll up their bodies to protect themselves, and Losso’s work lets us peek at how they did it. She found that these little armored critters had special belly plates and legs shaped like pizza slices (yum!) that slid over each other so they could curl up tight. It’s like a mix between a transformer and a roly-poly!

And here’s where it gets really wild: this rolling-up business wasn’t just a one-trilobite show. Losso compared these old-timers to some modern-day bugs and crabs and found out that rolling into a ball is a pretty popular move in the arthropod dance book. This move is so good for surviving that different creatures who aren’t even closely related came up with the same idea. Scientists call this “convergent evolution,” and it’s like how both bats and birds have wings but aren’t related at all.

Losso’s detective work doesn’t just make us go “Wow!”—it’s also a shout-out to the power of really old museum collections. Those fossils were just sitting there for over a century until someone with fresh eyes and new tech came along to uncover their secrets.

Now, we’ve got a whole new appreciation for these prehistoric pioneers of the curl-up defense. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it—these tiny creatures from millions of years ago are teaching us big lessons about survival, evolution, and the incredible history of life on Earth. Isn’t science just the coolest?

SOURCE: 3D preservation of trilobite soft tissues sheds light on convergent evolution of defensive enrollment



1. What is convergent evolution?

Convergent evolution refers to the phenomenon where unrelated organisms independently evolve similar traits or characteristics in response to similar environmental pressures or challenges.

2. How did trilobites protect themselves?

Trilobites had the ability to tuck in their legs and roll up their bodies to protect themselves. They had special belly plates and legs shaped like pizza slices that slid over each other, allowing them to curl up tightly.

3. What did the recent research uncover about trilobites?

Recent research led by Sarah Losso at Harvard revealed trilobites with their soft parts preserved in 3D. This discovery is extremely rare and provides insights into how trilobites used their unique defense mechanism.

4. What is the significance of this research?

This research highlights the importance of studying old museum collections and applying new technologies to uncover hidden secrets. The study of these ancient creatures teaches us valuable lessons about survival, evolution, and the history of life on Earth.

5. How long ago did trilobites exist?

Trilobites lived approximately 451 to 462 million years ago, during the Paleozoic Era. They existed long before the time of dinosaurs and are considered to be ancient critters.

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: trilobites, Paleozoic Era, convergent evolution

Trilobites (; meaning "three lobes") are extinct marine arthropods that form the class Trilobita. Trilobites form one of the earliest known groups of arthropods. The first appearance of trilobites in the fossil record defines the base of the Atdabanian stage of the Early Cambrian period (521 million years ago) and...
Read more: Trilobite

The Paleozoic ( PAL-ee-ə-ZOH-ik, -⁠ee-oh-, PAY-; or Palaeozoic) Era is the first of three geological eras of the Phanerozoic Eon. Beginning 538.8 million years ago (Ma), it succeeds the Neoproterozoic (the last era of the Proterozoic Eon) and ends 251.9 Ma at the start of the Mesozoic Era. The Paleozoic...
Read more: Paleozoic

Convergent evolution
Convergent evolution is the independent evolution of similar features in species of different periods or epochs in time. Convergent evolution creates analogous structures that have similar form or function but were not present in the last common ancestor of those groups. The cladistic term for the same phenomenon is homoplasy....
Read more: Convergent evolution

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