Twelve Additional Trilobite Localities

CAMBRIAN

Providence Mountains, California

With daytime temperatures that occasionally reach 115 degrees during peak summer months, and a terrain often as barren as an alien world, to call the environs in and around Southern California's Providence Mountains inhospitable would seem to do injustice to the word. It's hot… it's dry… it's downright brutal. Cars frequently overheat on the most prominent nearby roadway, the legendary Route 66… as do the occupants of those vehicles. It's all enough to create a potentially lethal environment for anyone brave-- or foolhardy-- enough to test the limits of this unforgiving spot of terra firma. But there is good reason for fossil-loving folks to venture into this hellish territory that borders precariously on the Mojave Desert. At its core are the Latham shale layers of the Marble Mountains, source for some of the most spectacular and important Lower Cambrian trilobites in the world. Featuring an exotic array of closely-related species of Redlichiida including Olenellus fremonti, Olenellus nevadensis and Bristolia bristolenis, the trilobites of the Latham shale present astounding examples of early life's first flowering on Planet Earth.

trilobite Bristolia bristolensis

Bristolia bristolensis (Resser, 1928)
Lower Cambrian
Latham Shale Formation
California, U.S.A.
10 cm

Manuels River, Newfoundland, Canada: 

Trilobites were first discovered near Conception Bay, Newfoundland, in 1874 by a survey team working under the auspices of the Geological Survey of Canada. But by the time professor Riccardo Levi-Setti stumbled upon the then long-abandoned outcrop of Middle Cambrian rocks along the Manuels River in the mid-1970s, the area had been converted into a makeshift garbage dump. After removing the rusting hulks of refrigerators and washing machines, however, Levi-Setti was able to uncover a layer of 510 million year-old mudstone that was filled with magnificent examples of Paradoxides trilobites, along with a variety of other trilobite species. Not only were these specimens aesthetically pleasing (as showcased within Levi-Setti's subsequent trilobite books which highlighted the Manuels River material), but they also proved to be of scientific importance -- helping lend additional support to the theory of Plate Tectonics, which explains the movement of continents over time. Though trilobite collecting is now banned at the location, a small museum that features a number of Levi-Setti's discoveries has opened near the Manuels River site.

Paradoxides davidis trapezopyge 2

Paradoxides davidis trapezopyge Bergström & Levi-Setti 1978
Middle Cambrian
Manuels River Formation
Manuels River, Newfoundland, Canada
22 cm

British Columbia, Canada

Whenever the trilobites of British Columbia are considered, images of the historic Burgess shale and its world-renowned treasure trove of Middle Cambrian material naturally and rightfully spring to mind. That outcrop of the Stephen Formation stands as perhaps the most studied and lauded invertebrate fauna in paleontological history. However, this rugged, mountain-strewn province along Canada's Pacific Coast should also be recognized for a number of intriguing Lower and Upper Cambrian locations that sporadically appear throughout the entire region. Magnificent Olenellus and Wanneria specimens emerge from the area's oldest fossil-bearing rock -- the remote Rosella Formation housing the former… the Eager Formation in Cranbrook renowned for the latter. The Upper Cambrian is also well represented in BC, particularly by the diverse and prolific McKay Group, where trilobites such as Orygmaspis contracta and Labiostria westropi are often found in calcified geodes that produce beautifully detailed positive/negative examples.

trilobite Orygmaspis contracta

Orygmaspis contracta (Frederickson, 1949)
Upper Cambrian
McKay Group, Elvina Biozone
Cranbrook, British Columbia, Canada
6 cm

ORDOVICIAN

Ontario, Canada

The various 460 million year old Ordovician outcrops of Ontario, Canada -- which include such formations as the Chazy, Bobcaygeon and Verulam -- rank high on any noble list of the World's Leading Trilobite Sites. During over a century of exploration and excavation by both professionals from the nearby Royal Ontario Museum and legions of weekend warriors, these varied locations have provided the trilobite community with some of the most impressive, fascinating and scientifically significant “bugs” of all-time. Such notable trilo types as Gabriceraurus dentatus, Isotelus gigas, Ectenaspis homanolotoides and Hemiarges paulianus hail from the diverse formations of the region, and are usually preserved in a thick, black or chocolate-brown shell that has long made them favorites among enthusiasts. Unfortunately, in recent years, many of the quarries in this area have been closed to collectors for “safety” reasons, making the already available trilobite material even more precious.

trilobite Ectenaspis homanolotoides

Ectenaspis homanolotoides (Raymond, 1920)
Upper Ordovician
Bobcaygeon Formation
Brechin, Ontario, Canada
16 cm

Beecher's Trilobite Bed, New York: 

For more than 120 years, Triarthrus eatoni trilobites of unique beauty and importance have been found within the narrow Late Ordovician layers of the Lorraine Shale that occur in Oneida County, New York. What makes these small trilobites (usually between 1 and 3 cm.) particularly remarkable, is not only their dramatic pyritized preservation, but also the fact that many of these 450 million year-old fossils present exceptional soft body detail. Ever since Charles Emerson Beecher of Yale University worked the site during the last decade of the 19th Century, these trilobites have been renowned for displaying the finest examples of trilobite ventral morphology ever found, providing evidence of legs, antennae and gills. It was long assumed that Beecher had exhausted the location during his three-year dig, and upon his death in 1904 it was believed that the site, commonly known as Beecher's Trilobite Bed, had been lost forever. However, in 1984, the location was rediscovered by amateur paleontologists Tom Whiteley and Dan Cooper, and on-going excavations have since revealed hundreds of additional complete Triarthrus specimens.

Triarthrus eatoni image

Triarthrus eatoni (Hall, 1838)
Upper Ordovician
Lorraine Shale
Beecher's Trilobite Bed, Oneida County, New York, U.S.A.
1.5 cm

Note: Pyritized biramous appendages and antennae

Mount Orab, Ohio: 

It's not often that a trilobite receives recognition as a State Fossil. Sure, dinosaurs enjoy such a designation in a number of places across the face of the USA, as do the occasional Woolly Mammoth and Saber-toothed cat. But in Ohio, the large Isotelus maximus specimens that emerge from the 447 million year-old Ordovician layers of the Arnheim Formation that sit atop Mount Orab, have earned that exact distinction. However, these impressive trilobites, which on occasion reach up to 15 inches in length, are not the only renowned species that emerge from these rocks; Flexicalymene retrosa rank as the formation's most prolific trilobite, while the beautiful and rare Amphilichas halli are among the true trilo-trophies of the American fossil landscape. The formation also features an impressive assortment of crinoids, cephalopods and brachiopods that lurk amid the relatively soft, grey limestone layers. But it is the giant, ovate Isotelus', with their smooth chocolate-brown carapaces, that continue to draw trilobite enthusiasts back to Mount Orab year-after-year in their hopes of finding the “ultimate” complete specimen.

trilobite Isotelus maximus

Isotelus maximus Locke, 1838
Upper Ordovician
Richmond Formation, Arnheim Member
Mount Orab, Brown County, Ohio, U.S.A.
22 cm

Ladyburn, Scotland

Ladyburn has long been recognized as one of Europe's most famed and diverse Ordovician fossil localities. The area that encompasses this site lies along Scotland's rugged western coast, about 30 miles south of Glasgow. It is a rustic landscape, one filled with rolling green hills and rock-strewn outcrops, a mere stone's throw from the North Sea. For centuries, area residents have walked through this terrain keeping a sharp eye out for the unique “fossil pockets” that characterize the 437 million year old faunal deposits of this legendary locale. These pockets can yield well-preserved examples of starfish, crinoids and bryzoans, in addition to the more than two dozen trilobite species found here. The Ladyburn fossils are often preserved in either a sturdy brown or orange limonite that serves to both distinguish and highlight the locale's array of rare trilobite species. These include the likes of Toxochasmops bissetti, Paracybeloides girvanensis and the giant cheirurid Hadromeros keisleyensis, which on occasion has yielded complete specimens 10 inches in length.

trilobite cybeloides paracybeloides girvanensis

Cybeloides (Paracybeloides) girvanensis (Reed, 1906)
Upper Ordovician, Ashgillian stage, Rawtheyan Sub-stage
South Threave Formation, Farden Member, 'Starfish Bed'
Girvan, Ayrshire, Scotland
3.4 cm

SILURIAN

Waldron Shale, Indiana: 

Rich sedimentary formations of Silurian age remain among the rarities of the fossil record. For trilobite enthusiasts, such well-known (and previously featured) locales as Wren's Nest, England and Rochester Shale, New York, stand among the premier Silurian sites on the planet. Another, perhaps lesser known US locality is the Waldron Shale of Indiana, where beautifully preserved 425 million year old examples of such unusual trilobite species asMetopolichas breviceps, Glyptambon verrucosus and Trimerus delphinocephalus have been found in a number of outcrops that dot the state's southern half. Perhaps closest in its faunal content to the Rochester Shale, there are still marked differences in the material found in the slightly younger strata of the Waldron, and the density of fossilized material also appears to be less prevalent than in the New York locale. Because of their rarity, distinctly mottled caramel color and three-dimensional preservation, Waldron trilobites rank as particularly prized fossils by collectors both near-and-far.

trilobite Metopolichas briviceps

Metopolichas breviceps (Hall, 1864)
Silurian
Waldron Shale
Shelby County, Indiana, U.S.A.
6 cm

Gotland, Sweden: 

A large island located 55 miles off of Sweden's south-eastern coast, trilobites have been drawn and studied from the 420 million year-old sedimentary rocks of Gotland since 1851. Almost a millennium earlier, this 1,300 square mile refuge served as an important Viking trading settlement, remnants of which can still be found amid this area's rugged shores. In key spots throughout Gotland, thick limestone beds have perfectly preserved a rich Silurian fauna featuring an abundant array of trilobite species. Usually presented in a fine, toffee-colored calcite, these wonderfully three-dimensional specimens include such trilo-types as Proetus granulatus, Sphaerexochus latifrons and Calymene neotuberculata. Often compared in both age and preservation to the renowned Dudley outcrops of central England, Gotland specimens are perhaps even more prized due to their relative scarcity. With many of the fossil-bearing Gotland layers now completely submerged under the waters of the surrounding Baltic Sea, recent specimens from this locale have been few and far-between.

Encrinurus macrourus trilobite image

Encrinurus (Encrinurus) macrourus Schmidt, 1859
Upper Silurian, Ludlow Series
Hemse Formation
Sproge, Gotland, Sweden
4 cm around curve

DEVONIAN

Hunsruck, Germany: 

Since the 14th Century, finely grained, jet-black slate blocks (used primarily as roofing tiles) have been drawn from the Devonian-age quarries located in the German region of Hunsruck. Through various world wars and countless economic downturns, quarrying at the site, commonly called Bundenbach, due to that town's near-by proximity, has continued on virtually unabated. While certainly not the primary reason for this mining activity, the appearance of a magnificent and scientifically important fossil fauna has repeatedly drawn international attention to this Rhine Valley locale. Perhaps best known for its diverse assemblage of 400 million year-old starfish and crinoids, even complete jawless fish have made occasional appearances within the area's smooth slate sheets. The trilobites found here include such species as Chotecops ferdinandi, Rhenops lethaeae and Parahomalonotus planus, and are perhaps most notable for their soft body part preservation, which on occasion has yielded amazing detail when subjected to modern x-ray technology.

trilobite Chotecops ferdinandi

Chotecops ferdinandi (Kayser, 1880)
Lower Devonian
Hunsruck slate
Bundenbach, Rhine Valley, Germany
4.2 cm

The fine grained slates of Hunsruck may exhibit preservation of soft tissues (antennae, legs) in pyrite.

The X-ray of this specimen, just below, clearly shows the antennae.

Phacops fedinandi X-Ray

 

Penn-Dixie, New York: 

A number of locations that border Lake Erie in western New York State have long been noted for their exceptional Middle Devonian fauna. Indeed, reports regarding the area's 385 million year-old crinoids, brachiopods and bivalves date back nearly two centuries. Despite the attention those abundant fossils have long drawn from local residents, however, it is the unique trove of trilobites that can be found in either the area's rich Windom Shale or Moscow Formation limestone that has continually attracted a lion's share of the acclaim. Both Eighteen Mile Creek (named for its distance from the Niagara River) and the nearby Penn-Dixie quarry are of particular paleontological interest due to their beautifully preserved examples of Eldredgeops (Phacops) rana rana. Bellacartwrightia calliteles and Greenops barberi trilobites, the first of which can occasionally be found in mass-mortality plates featuring dozens of overlapping specimens… a phenomenon, some scientist speculate, that may represent mating assemblages. In addition, these locations have proven to be incredibly popular with amateur fossil collectors who fill both Penn-Dixie and Eighteen Mile Creek -- often in organized “club” outings -- virtually every weekend from April until November.

Eldredgeops (Phacops) rana 2

Eldredgeops rana ≈ (Green, 1832)
Middle Devonian, Givetian
Hamilton Group, Moscow Formation, Windom Shale Member
Penn Dixie quarry
Hamburg, New York, U.S.A.
average size: 2 cm

CARBONIFEROUS

Tournai, Belgium: 

Located 53 miles south-west of the European “capital” of Brussels, and sitting almost squarely on the border that separates Belgium and France, the land surrounding the historic town of Tournai serves as the epicenter for one of the richest Lower Carboniferous (Mississippian) faunas ever discovered. Here, dark grey, 350 million year-old limestone deposits yield an intriguing variety of small (generally an inch or less) but significant proetid trilobites, including Cummingella belisama, Witrtryides rosmerta, Paladin arduennesis andPiltonia kuehnei, all of which are preserved in a thin, white calcite. While rock from the vicinity has been mined since Roman times, the area's quarries were first opened in the mid-19th Century to supply building materials for the fast-growing region which today supports over two million inhabitants. More recently, many of these quarries have been shut down, making the trilobite material that has emerged from them over the last 150 years even more appreciated by collectors and scientists around the globe.

Witrtryides rosmerta

Witryides rosmerta G.Hahn, R.Hahn, & Brauckmann, 1986
Lower Carboniferous, Tournaisian (Lower Mississippian)
Tournai Formation 
area east of Tournai, Belgium
2 cm