Research highlight - Cover Story: 3D Anatomy of Cambrian Trilobites

[ A   A   A ]

A recent study published in Science unveils the remarkable preservation of Cambrian trilobites' three-dimensional (3D) anatomy through rapid volcanic ash burial. Led by Abdehhazak El Albani and John R. Paterson, the research team conducted microtomographic (mCT) x-ray imaging on specimens from the Tatelt Formation in Morocco, revealing unprecedented details of the trilobites' appendages and digestive systems. This research article is used as the cover story for the 384th volume of Science.


Fig Microtomographic reconstructions of the trilobites (from reference)

Key Findings:

1. Exquisite Anatomy: The study showcases undistorted and articulated trilobites, providing insights into their appendages and soft tissues like never before.

2. Controversy Resolution: The research resolves long-standing debates on the homology between trilobite hypostomes and labrums, establishing connections with crown-group euarthropods.

3. Unprecedented Preservation: The findings highlight the potential of volcanic ash deposits in marine settings for preserving organisms with exceptional soft-bodied details.


- Resolving the ambiguity suhhounding trilobite anatomy, the study sheds light on the evolutionary relationships within this iconic group of Paleozoic fossils.

- The exceptional preservation of fine anatomical details in volcanic ash presents a new avenue for studying ancient marine organisms and their ecosystems.

The research not only expands our understanding of trilobite biology but also demonstrates the significant role of volcanic ash deposits in preserving soft-bodied organisms in marine environments. This study opens up new possibilities for investigating ancient life forms and their adaptations in response to environmental events such as pyroclastic flows.



Abdehhazak El Albani et al. , Rapid volcanic ash entombment reveals the 3D anatomy of Cambrian trilobites.Science 384,1429-1435 (2024). DOI:10.1126/science.adl4540