Sex in the Ordovician: Trilobite Reproduction

Wednesday April 1, 7:00 pm

By Thomas Hegna, Assistant Professor, Department of Geology and Environmental Sciences, SUNY Fredonia

This talk focuses on the discovery of trilobites with in situ eggs from the Ordovician of New York State. It uses this discovery as a touchstone to discuss the evolution of trilobite and arthropod reproduction in general.

An illustrated presentation in the auditorium of the Gateway Executive Office Building, 3556 Lake Shore Rd., Blasdell, NY 14219.

FREE for members and $4 for the public. No registration needed.

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. 

2019 Schedule

By Dr. Phil Stokes, Executive Director and Dr. Holly Schreiber, Director of Education

Hello, again! Memories of our 2018 season, including the World’s Largest Fossil Dig, are still fresh in our minds as we plan our 2019 campaign. Our upcoming season is loaded with science programming including old favorites and new offerings. Please note that the schedule is subject to change and that more programs will be added as the season approaches.

Wednesday, February 13, 7:00 pm
Science Talk: Tales of Mastodons (and Others) from the Hiscock Site
By Dr. Richard S. Laub

Wednesday, March 20, 7:00 pm
Science Talk: An Archeologist’s Perspective
By Dr. Caitlin Chaves Yates

Saturday March 23 and Sunday March 24
Penn Dixie Exhibit at the Buffalo Gem & Mineral Show at the Erie County Fairgrounds, Hamburg, NY

Wednesday, April 17, 7:00 pm
Science Talk TBA
By Don Williams, President of the Steel Plant Museum of WNY

Saturday April 20, 10 am to 2 pm
Earth Day at Penn Dixie
Join our team of volunteers as we perform the annual cleanup of Penn Dixie and prepare to reopen to the public. No registration needed. FREE admission and pizza for all of our helpers!

Saturday April 27
Penn Dixie reopens to the public
Saturdays, 9am to 5pm and Sundays, 10 am to 5 pm

Saturday April 27, 7:45 pm
April Astronomy Night

Saturday May 4, 9 am to 11 am
Penn Dixie Volunteer Orientation
Penn Dixie would not exist without our volunteers! To keep growing, we’re always on the lookout for help with programming, school visits, community engagement, site maintenance, and administration. No experience necessary. We will provide all the training needed! Learn about Penn Dixie from our staff and experienced volunteers and receive the tools that you will need to make a difference. Refreshments included.
In the auditorium of the Gateway Executive Office Building, 3556 Lake Shore Rd. Blasdell, NY. Contact Dr. Holly Schreiber at to register.

Monday May 6, 10 am to 1 pm
Homeschool Day at Penn Dixie
Learn about the geological history of Western New York at Penn Dixie. This special tour for homeschoolers includes a complete educational tour of Penn Dixie led by our trained educators. Students can take home all the fossils they find! Admission is $5 per student. Students must be accompanied by an adult. No experience necessary. Program is for grades 1-12. Pre-registration is required. To register email Holly at Register by April 29 and receive $1 off admission. Rain date: May 8.

Friday May 17, 6:30 pm
The Fossil Adventures of PaleoJoe
By Joe ‘PaleoJoe’ Kchodl, Paleontologist, from Midland, MI
An illustrated presentation with specimens in the auditorium of the Gateway Executive Office Building, 3556 Lake Shore Rd. Blasdell, NY. Admission $4, FREE to Penn Dixie members and their guests, or FREE to registered Dig w/ Experts guests. No registration needed.

Saturday May 18 and Sunday May 19, 9 am to 4 pm
Dig with the Experts
Join us for our signature event — Dig with the Experts! This is our very popular, once yearly opportunity to unearth the best, most complete, and most unexpected fossils at Penn Dixie. We’ll have equipment do the heavy lifting and scientific experts on site to help with locating and identifying the best fossils. You’ll have to do your share of splitting and digging, of course, but you’re guaranteed to find something cool and interesting.
Tickets limited.

May 25, 8:15 pm
May Astronomy Night

Monday May 27 (Memorial Day), 9 am to 3 pm
Penn Dixie open for Memorial Day holiday! Come and dig for fossils!

Saturday June 15, 10 am to 12 pm
Fossil Hunting for Beginners
New to fossil hunting? Learn the tricks of the trade from paleontologist Dr. Holly Schreiber. Tour the site and learn all the best spots to hunt for fossils. Dr. Schreiber will teach you how to find, dig, and preserve all the fossil treasures you find. No experience necessary. All ages welcome. Bring your own tools or borrow from our limited supply. Included with admission or FREE for members.

Monday June 17
Penn Dixie open seven days/week until September 6. Our hours will be Monday to Saturday, 9 am to 5 pm and Sunday 10 am to 5 pm.

Saturday June 29, 10 am to 12 pm
Fossil Hunting for Beginners

Saturday June 29, 8:30 pm
June Astronomy Night

Thursday July 4 (Independence Day), 9 am to 3 pm
Penn Dixie open for the 4th of July holiday! Come and celebrate our nation’s independence by digging for fossils!

Friday July 5, 9 am to 7 pm
Fossil Friday!
Penn Dixie will stay open late for after hours fossil collecting until 7 pm. Admission is $5 for children and adults ALL DAY; Penn Dixie members attend for FREE. No reservations needed.

Friday July 12, 9 am to 7 pm
Fossil Friday!

Friday July 19, 9 am to 7 pm
Fossil Friday!

Saturday July 20
It’s burger time! Penn Dixie’s free fossil dig and exhibit booth will be setup in the Village of Hamburg as we celebrate the birthplace of the hamburger at BurgerFest. This community event is a great place to share our mission with the public and we hope to see you there!

Friday July 26, 9 am to 7 pm
Fossil Friday!

Saturday July 27, 5 to 11 pm
A Midsummer Night’s Adventure
A different program this year!

Sunday August 11, 10 am to 12 pm
Fossil Hunting for Beginners

Saturday August 24, Time: TBD
A special Penn Dixie program: Stay tuned for details!!

August 31, 7:30 pm
August Astronomy Night

Monday September 2 (Labor Day), 9 am to 3 pm
Penn Dixie open for Labor Day holiday! Come and dig for fossils!

Friday September 6
Penn Dixie returns to weekend hours: Saturday 9 am to 5 pm and Sunday 10 am to 5 pm

Sunday September 8, 10 am to 4 pm
Grandparent’s Day
In recognition of Grandparent’s day, all grandparents accompanied by grandchildren are admitted for free. Our experts will also be on site to help identify your fossils, rocks and minerals. Our telescopes for viewing sunspots and solar flares will be available as well.
Adults: $9, Children 3-12: $7, Children 2 and Under & Penn Dixie Members: FREE
No pre-registrations required.

Saturday, September 21, 9 am to 4 pm
Scouting Rocks!
Penn Dixie is excited to offer a FREE day of fossil collecting, sunspot viewing, nature walks, and other hands-on science activities for ANY scout in uniform. More info to follow.

Tuesday September 24, 10 am to 1 pm
Homeschool Day at Penn Dixie
Learn about the geological history of Western New York at Penn Dixie. This special tour for homeschoolers includes a complete educational tour of Penn Dixie led by our trained educators. Students can take home all the fossils they find! Admission is $5 per student. Students must be accompanied by an adult. No experience necessary. Program is for grades 1-12. Pre-registration is required. To register email Holly at Register by September 16 and receive $1 off admission. Rain date: September 26.

September 28, 6:30 pm
Astronomy Night

Saturday October 5, 9 am to 4 pm
22nd Annual Erie County Earth Science Day
Come talk to earth scientists and watch as they exhibit and demonstrate various aspects of their professions. Learn about drill rigs and watch a demonstration on rock coring and drilling operations. Sunspots and solar flares will also be visible through our telescopes along with fossil collecting and a wide variety of other activities.

October 19, 6 pm
October Astronomy Night

Sunday October 20
Penn Dixie closes to the public

Thursday November 7, 6 to 9 pm
24th Annual HNHS/Penn Dixie Fundraiser

May 2019: Dig With The Experts

Join us for our signature event — Dig with the Experts! This is our very popular, once yearly opportunity to unearth the best, most complete, and most unexpected fossils at Penn Dixie. We’ll have equipment do the heavy lifting and scientific experts on site to help with locating and identifying the best fossils. You’ll have to do your share of splitting and digging, of course, but you’re guaranteed to find something cool and interesting.

Saturday May 18: 9 am to 4 pm
Sunday May 19: 9 am to 4 pm
Monday May 20: 9 am to 4 pm (limited staffing)

Expert volunteers — including scientists, leading fossil collectors, and experts on local geology — will lead the dig in a freshly excavated section of the Lower Windom Shale and will demonstrate how to find Devonian Period trilobites, cephalopods, fish remains, brachiopods, corals, wood, and a range of other marine invertebrates. Thanks to our experts, we are celebrating our 15th dig in 2019! Saturday participants will receive a special commemorative gift.

But, wait — there’s more! ‘Paleo’ Joe Kchodl will once again join us for a special science talk the evening before the dig. Paleo Joe will present: The Fossil Adventures of PaleoJoe at on Friday May 17 at 6:30 pm in the Gateway Building Auditorium, 3556 Lakeshore Road in Blasdell, NY. This family-friendly presentation is FREE for Penn Dixie members AND registered dig guests, or $5 for the public. No reservations needed.

Saturday May 18: SOLD OUT
Sunday May 19: SOLD OUT
Weekend Pass: SOLD OUT
Monday May 20: Included for all guests.

Director’s Notes: This program will sell out — please reserve early. In commemoration of our 15th dig, we offer Child (under age 18) tickets for Sunday’s dig at $15 each. Children are welcome to attend on Saturday at the regular rate. We do not recommend that children under age 7 attend this program due to the technical and safety requirements. During Dig With The Experts, other areas of Penn Dixie will be open to fossil collectors of all ages and regular tours will be available. Children must be accompanied at all times. Tickets are electronic and will not be mailed.

International Guests: Please email Dr. Phil Stokes at with your name, order info (i.e., dates, numbers and types of tickets), and membership status. We’ll send you a PayPal invoice directly.

Dig with the Experts draws collectors from around the globe for this unique opportunity, which was developed and is currently co-led by our friends from the Cincinnati Dry Dredgers. Bring a hammer, chisel, safety glasses, newspaper, and paper towels to wrap your fossils. Extra water is recommended, plus bring rain gear just in case the weather doesn’t cooperate.

Food trucks will be on site Saturday and Sunday to serve lunch. Guests are welcome to bring their own food and beverages, as well as a small cart to transport personal items and specimens. Chairs and umbrellas are okay, too. We thank Zoladz Construction Co., Inc. for their help to get Penn Dixie ready for this big event.

Additional information:

Buffalo ranked America’s favorite city to visit, upstaging all competitors

Penn Dixie Frequently asked questions

Report on 2016 Dig with the Experts

Updates from 2016 Dig with the Experts

Bellacartwrightia: A Singular Specimen

Bellacartwrightia enlarged
Bellacartwrightia sp. trilobite uncovered by Alasdair Gilfillin at Penn Dixie in 2016.

Every so often, one of our visitors uncovers a truly spectacular fossil. The preservation might be perfect, the assemblage of different fossils might be unique, or the type of fossil might be very uncommon. In this case, we present a beautifully preserved and uncommon trilobite called Bellacartwrightia.

Bellacartwrightia side view
Sideview of Bellacartwrightia. Trilobite is approximately 1.5 inches long.

Penn Dixie member Alasdair Gilfillan discovered this trilobite at our park on October 3, 2016. Our dig season was coming to a close and Alasdair decided to spend a weekend visiting us from New Jersey. Alasdair dug into the infamous Smoke Creek trilobite bed of the Windom Shale and unearthed what he thought was a Greenops — an uncommon trilobite that seems to represent one or two of every 100 or so trilobites that are found. Instead, Alasdair found something much rarer. He writes:

You may remember that I found a nice (though at the time partially covered) trilobite which I thought was a Greenops that day. I managed to get it prepped and it turns out that it was a Bellacartwrightia, a much rarer form. The prep guy did a really nice job and it turned out to be a really fantastic specimen. Please find enclosed the photographs. The trilobite is ~ 1.5 inches long.

Alasdair adds that the prep work was done by Bob Miles — a former Penn Dixie board member who also took the photographs. We thank Alasdair for sharing his images and for his donation of many fossil specimens that were used in our school programs.

Bellcartwrightia front view
The Bellacartwrightia cephalon (head) resembles that of Greenops, but the two genera are not closely related.

Bellacartwrightia is uniquely found in the Devonian rocks of the Hamilton Group in New York State. This fossil was first described by Lieberman and Kloc in 1997; the original paper can be downloaded here. Bellacartwrightia was named after the wife of paleontologist Bruce Lieberman, who at the time was a postdoctoral fellow at the American Museum of Natural History. Dr. Lieberman is now at the University of Kansas. The paper explains how Bellacartwrightia is different from Greenops, another trilobite with a somewhat similar appearance. From page 29:

In addition, the members of this genus are phylogenetically distant from species assigned to true Greenops…These two Middle Devonian genera have not shared acommon ancestor since, at latest, the Siegenian [approx 411 million years ago], based on an analysis of ghost lineages. To treat these species as members of a genus Greenops would necessitate placing all of the asteropyginines within the genus Greenops.

There you have it — a new genus of trilobites first documented in 1997 and one of our members finds an excellent specimen 20 years after the discovery!

Bellacartwrightia in the host rock — Windom Shale.

Alasdair was kind enough to share additional photos of the Bellacartwrightia as well as some of his other treasures from Penn Dixie. Our visitors are welcome to keep any fossils that they find, but we do appreciate photos of particularly cool fossils for use on our website.

Phacops rana double plate
A plate of Phacops rana trilobites found in 2015.
Phacops rana single plate
A single Phacops from 2016.
Phacops rana enlarged
Phacops trilobite. Prep work by Bob Miles.

For further reading, here are some links:

Evolutionary and biogeographic patterns in the Asteropyginae (Trilobita, Devonian) Delo, 1935 on AMNH

Bellacartwrightia whiteleyi on AMNH

Textbook Bellacartwrightia on

Bellacartwrightia on

Penn Dixie’s International Friends

Penn Dixie international partners.jpg
The Environmental Policy Group of Jammu and Kashmir displays a commemorative plaque from Penn Dixie.

You may have read about our new partnership with the Centre for Himalayan Geology in the Buffalo News or Artvoice. With Penn Dixie’s support, The Centre is in the process of creating an international scientific attraction — the Kashmir Triassic Fossil Park — near the town of Khonmoh in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, India.

Gangamopteris, a plant fossil found in Kashmir. Photo from

Many of the types of fossils found at Penn Dixie are also present in Kashmir, though the species are not the same. For instance, both fossil parks have brachiopods, bivalves (clams), ammonites, gastropods, other marine invertebrates, and various plants. However, the park in Kashmir — at least as far as we can tell — does not have trilobites, as these animals became increasing scarce towards the end of the Paleozoic Era. The Permian-Triassic extinction event — which is captured in the rocks at the park — marked the end of the trilobites’ reign on our planet.

An example of Permian foraminifera — microscopic plankton fossils found in India. Photo from

This massive die-off — which eliminated 90% of all marine species and 70% of all terrestrial vertebrates on Earth — led to the rise of the dinosaurs. Meteor impacts, widespread volcanism, and a runaway greenhouse effect (i.e., climate change) have been proposed by scientists as explanations for the extinction event.

Carving of a Kashmir stag, or hangul; a gift from The Centre to Penn Dixie.

For some additional reading about the park, visit these links:

Kashmir Triassic Fossil Park coming up at Khanmoh

Kashmir Triassic Fossil Park soon to serve students across the world

Fossil park at 250 million-year-old tsunami site in Srinagar

Explore Triassic fossil, pristine Kashmir, and more! on Pinterest

Mining threat to fossil beds at protected Kashmir Site

Some uncommon Penn Dixie fossils

With thousands of visitors to Penn Dixie each year, really cool fossils are uncovered fairly often. With a trained eye and determined spirit, our visitors never cease to amaze the staff and volunteers with what they discover.

Dr. Edgar Kooijman, Director of the Biotechnology Program at Kent State University sent us these photos and descriptions of some uncommon fossils from a trip to the site a couple of years ago. His specimens — a trilobite, a snail, a crinoid, and an amminoid — showcase the diversity of marine life that existed in our region during the Late Devonian Period.

The head of a Bellacartwrightia trilobite.

From Dr. Kooijman:

This rolled trilobite was identified as a Bellacartwrightia calliteles and was found during the field trip of the North Coast Fossil Club in May 2013. It came from the main trilobite layer [in the Windom Shale], and was prepped by Brian Dasno from Watertown NY. This was no small task as the specimen was essentially split in two. The eyes and some of the carapace were on one side, and the rest on another. While the specimen was crushed during or after fossilization it is complete and all the spines are visible. The “spikes” coming from the front of the head are the tail spines. The dorsal spines are also beautifully visible.

The following three specimens were all found during the May 2014 field trip of the North Coast Fossil Club, from Cleveland OH. They were prepped by Marc Behrendt.

An Arthroacantha crinoid holdfast.

From Dr. Kooijman:

The crinoid cup is from a species that is commonly found in the Sylica shale of Ohio, but which is rare (at least complete cups are) in the Windom shale at Penn Dixie. The name of this species is Arthroacantha carpenteri (Hinde). The “nob” at the top is where the stem would have been attached. Stem fragments are common fossils in the shale of Penn Dixie. Also note the numerous scars of the side of the crinoid cup. These scars used to hold spines that may have served to ward of snails that loved to feed on crinoids. The spines are not preserved in this specimen but the attachment points are easily visible.

A gastropod (snail) — potentially Bucculentium.

From Dr. Kooijman:

The snail is from the genus Platyceras, and the species may be Bucculentum. And was identified from among the different species found in the Sylica shale of north west Ohio. It was found just above the main trilobite layer at the edge of the digging pit during the 2014 season. It is the largest snail I have ever found at Penn Dixie.

A cast of an ammonoid — predatory cephalopod

From Dr. Kooijman:

The ammonite was found in the main trilobite layer. Note that the original shell material is not preserved and only the cast of this mollusk is visible. No genus name for this specimen is known. These aminoids are occasionally found in the Windom shale.

Penn Dixie thanks Dr. Kooijman for sharing his wonderful photos with us!