Sunday, October 13, 2013

Roly-poly olenellid

You may have some experience with pillbugs. Officially known as pill woodlice, we used to call them roly-poly bugs as kids because of their reaction when you touched them. They would squeeze themselves into a perfect sphere, a defense mechanism I have just learned is called conglobation. Extinct marine creatures known as trilobites also had this ability that protected them from an increasing number of predators and allowed them to thrive for over 270 million years. Paleontologists have confirmed that later species of trilobites rolled themselves up and even developed extra defenses such as locking mechanisms which prevented other animals from pulling them back open. But now paleobiologist Nicholas J. Butterfield and his doctoral student Javier Ortega-Hernandez of the University of Cambridge have proven that even the very earliest forms of trilobites were roly-polies! Doing their field research in Jasper National park in Alberta, Canada, they have shown that the Cambrian olenellids (EXAMPLE ABOVE) were more limber than they looked. Ortega-Hernandez called the specimens they collected, " exciting find, as it is clear evidence that, despite their limitations, olenellids were capable of rolling themselves up effectively."

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