Episode 34 – March of the Trilobites
Of Collective Behavior and Trilobites
Reading scientific papers can be a daunting prospect. Even the titles can contain layers of jargon. On Past Time, we work diligently to break down the barriers of science to make the discoveries of science for audiences of all ages. In this episode, we experiment with a new method: breaking down every word in the title of a scientific paper. It might seem like a little task, but it is a way to introduce people to big ideas! This time, we introduce big ideas about trilobites!
For this episode, we delve into the journal Scientific Reports and the article “Collective behaviour in 480-million-year-old trilobite arthropods from Morocco.” by Jean Vannier of the Université de Lyon and his colleagues. This title doesn’t have a ton of jargon, but it presents a great chance to look at INVERTEBRATE animals…gathering into a conga line.
Well, not an actual conga line…but the fossil trilobite fossils in this paper are definitely situated in a single-file lines. These specimens of the species Ampyx priscus come from an amazing fossil deposit in Morocco. They teach us about the anatomy of trilobites, but they preserve important clues about the behaviors of ancient animals. Join us as we learn how and why trilobites—and living invertebrates—gather together in collective behaviors.
- To read the original open-access paper, check out this link!
- This popular article by LiveScience details the discovery.
- For a classic Past Time episode about trilobites, check out our interview with paleontologist Brenda Hunda!
- To learn more about trilobites, check out this laboratory exercise from an undergraduate paleontology course at Kansas University by Drs. Michelle Casey and Bruce Lieberman.
- To see some modern invertebrate conga lines, join Jacques Cousteau in this classic documentary about the spiny lobster! Conga lines begin around the 33:00 mark.