An Eyecatching Trilobite

By Dr. Phil Stokes, Executive Director

I’m always elated when a guest finds a really neat fossil and 2019 Dig With The Experts provided enough excitement to carry me forward for a long while! Many collectors uncovered large, excellently preserved specimens from the newly-excavated portion of Penn Dixie Fossil Park & Nature Reserve. Complete trilobites were on the menu, and the dig did not disappoint hundreds of enthusiastic diggers like Jimmy Cyrus from Kentucky.

Jimmy large phacops 1
The unprepared trilobite as found by Jimmy Cyrus at Dig With The Experts.
Jimmy large phacops 2
Preparation a little further along.

Jimmy submitted these photos of this beautifully-prepared Eldredgeops (Phacops) rana trilobite. As you can see, the carapace is entirely intact and all of the distinctive Eldredgeops features are visible. Malcolm Thornley — one of Penn Dixie’s amazing volunteer experts — did an incredible job preparing this specimen.

Finished 1
Ta-da! Great job, Malcolm!

My most favorite attribute of our trilobites is the eyes. Once prepared, you can — with a magnifier — count the dozens of eyelets on each compound eye. But, that’s not the weirdest thing. Did you know that the eyes were located on turret-like organs which could swivel? Trilobites could rotate their eyes in nearly 360 degrees!

Even the trilobite name — ‘Rana’ — refers to the eyes. In Latin, it means ‘frog’ due to the frog-like nature of the eyes! But, maybe there’s one more language connection to make. In Arabic, Rana is a somewhat common name. The meaning? Eyecatching.