My First Trilobite

I’ve been aware of fossils since my dino fanboy days in Greenwich Country Day School, and I used to collect them in a small way on family trips to Gotland. Back home, I would put fossils in malt vinegar and see bits of shell emerge from the limestone matrix. But I never found a trilobite.

Trilobites are the best fossils. Detailed, complicated, and often complete, unlike for instance the crinoids I would find of which only bits of stem like corrugated cigarette butts remained. More structure to the trilobites than to the orthoceratites every Swede treads on in the limestone stairs and hallways of early 20th century public buildings. But trilobites are uncommon or absent from the strata along the coast of Gotland, so I never found one. Until not too long ago, on the front porch of my dad’s house near Stockholm.

In the 50s and 60s, there was a gardening fad in Sweden where people would cover their patios and garden walks with red Öland limestone. I grew up with that stone everywhere, and maybe there were trilobites in it though I never saw one. My first trilobite sits right outside my dad’s front door.

The Öland Red dates from the Ordovician, about 488–444 million years ago. I can’t tell what species the trilobite is. Can you, Dear Reader?


  1. #1 Deborah
    Arkansas, USA
    September 25, 2012

    That’s so funny! I’ve always loved trilobites too. When I was a little kid I was exasperated that “other people” thought prehistoric life and dinosaurs were synonyms, when I knew there was so much more to the story. I’ve never found one but I look at the trilobite website sometimes. Their eyes are amazing. There are fossils of their eyes!

  2. #2 Birger Johansson
    September 25, 2012

    During my first year in school, I was introduced to fossils thanks to the orthoceratites clearly visible in the floor slabs. (the first trilobites are of course way older). And fossil reefs are made of rudists, not corals, but even they may not be old enough to go back to the ordovician
    (at this point the Aussies will shout “in your face!” and hit you with a slab of Ediacaran* fossils).
    *truly pre-Cambrian

  3. #3 Birger Johansson
    September 25, 2012

    Music for rocky arthropods:

  4. #4 cope
    September 25, 2012

    It looks like Pseudobasilicus to me (based on some Google work). It is described as a “fast-moving low-level epifaunal deposit feeder” in the Paleobiology Database.

  5. #5 Martin R
    September 25, 2012

    Thank you! “Epifauna” apparently means “aquatic animals that live on the bottom substratum as opposed to within it”.

  6. #6 Biblia
    somewhere down under
    September 25, 2012

    How wonderful! I was just like you, except I grew up in the Ohio River valley. Orthocerites, brachiopods, bryozoans, but nary a trilobite. They’re the best. (along with ammonites)

  7. #7 Jeff
    September 26, 2012

    I found one when I was about 12 in a strip pit. It was in a gray slate rock and the print was a maroon color. It was very detailed I wish I knew what I did with It. I also found a still standing petrified tree in same pit. Got a pice out on my mini bike. Took it to school and it was still there about twenty years ago when I visited my sons class.

  8. #8 Martin R
    September 26, 2012

    Ah, ammonites, we don’t get those here. Lovely fossils!

  9. #9 Jon Kåre Hellan
    Trondheim, Norway
    September 26, 2012

    Time to push “Trilobite: Eyewitness to Evolution” by Richard Fortey. Excellent. I also found two other books by the same author very enjoyable: “Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth” and “Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms: The Story of the Animals and Plants That Time Has Left Behind”

  10. #10 Jens
    Årsta, Sweden
    September 26, 2012

    I’s a pygidium (ass) from a Asaphus expansus, the most common trilobite of the Swdeish ortoceratite lime-stone. If you’re lycky, you found them with their beatutiful facet-eyes intact.

  11. #11 Martin R
    September 26, 2012

    Awesome as always Jens, thank you! Today I have visited the huge Early Modern dig in Kalmar with my students. Some of your plant finds were reported by the guide.

  12. #12 Jerrark
    September 27, 2012

    About ammonites, we do have them also in Sweden, in strata från Lias (earliest part of Jura) in Scania.

    About trilobites from Öland, I also have one at home. On top of that I have a couple of nice trilobites from the US and from Marocco.

  13. #13 Birger Johansson
    September 27, 2012

    Speaking of anti-creationism:
    (OT) Skeptic alert! A thorough debunking of Hamza Tzortzis’ claims about divine insights in embryology: -As the de-bunkers are ex-muslims they provide a novel angle on the claims that a holy text is supposed to contain inside information consistent with modern science.

  14. #14 Jens
    September 27, 2012

    Yes, the Kalmar excavation is becomming quite interesting, did your students find it interesting?

    If you like fossils, the next time you pay us a visit at Instrumentvägen 19, you should not miss the Lituites sp. -fossils in the stairs (yes – ordovician ortoceratit lime stone… again). They are a quite rare type of ortoceratites with spiralized, amonite-like ends (the oldest part of the shell). This means that they started their lifes in the form of small amonites, and when they become older grown strait shells and become ortoceratites.

  15. #15 Birger Johansson
    September 27, 2012

    Speaking of Ordovicium, I seem to recall that a Swedish quarry showed a number of microscopic objects that were revealed to be tiny inclusions of former meteorites embedded in ordovician sediments.
    The relative abundance indicated an asteroid belt object must have broken up, showering the inner solar system with debris (wether this is connected to a mass extinction remains unknown).
    — — — — — — —
    (OT) You could base a bad film on this: “Buddhist statue, discovered by Nazi expedition, is made of meteorite, new study reveals”

  16. #16 Martin R
    September 27, 2012

    Jens, those lituites sound awesome! I must check them out.

  17. […] en tid sedan läste jag ett blogginlägg som påminde mig om min barndoms fokusering på trilobiter. Jag samlade som många andra barn på mig massor med fossiler under familjens semestrar, men det […]

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