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Article: Cephalic biomechanics underpins the evolutionary success of trilobites

Palaeontology - Vol. 64 - Cover Image
Publication: Palaeontology
Volume: 64
Part: 4
Publication Date: July 2021
Page(s): 519 530
Author(s): Jorge Esteve, Jordi Marcé-Nogué, Francesc Pérez-Peris, and Emily Rayfield
Addition Information

How to Cite

ESTEVE, J., MARCé-NOGUé, J., PéREZ-PERIS, F., RAYFIELD, E. 2021. . Palaeontology, 64, 4, 519-530. DOI: /doi/10.1111/pala.12541

Author Information

  • Jorge Esteve - Departamento de Geociencias Facultad de Ciencias Universidad de los Andes Bogotá Colombia
  • Jordi Marcé-Nogué - Department of Mechanical Engineering Universitat Rovira i Virgili Tarragona Spain
  • Jordi Marcé-Nogué - Centre for Natural History University of Hamburg Hamburg Germany
  • Jordi Marcé-Nogué - Institut Català de Paleontologia M. Crusafont Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona Cerdanyola del Vallès Barcelona Spain
  • Francesc Pérez-Peris - Institute of Earth Science University of Laussane, Géopolis CH-1015 Laussane Switzerland
  • Emily Rayfield - School of Earth Sciences University of Bristol Bristol UK

Publication History

  • Issue published online: 09 June 2021
  • Manuscript Accepted: 21 January 2021
  • Manuscript Received: 04 May 2020

Funded By

Proyecto de Investigación Plan Nacional. Grant Number: CGL2017-87631-P
DFG, German Research Foundation. Grant Number: KA 1525/9-2

Online Version Hosted By

Wiley Online Library
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Arthropods (i.e. insects, spiders, crustaceans, myriapods and others), are the most successful Phanerozoic animals. The group is characterized by the possession of a segmented body, jointed limbs and a hard cuticle that is episodically moulted. One highly successful but now extinct group of arthropods is the trilobites. Trilobites underwent episodic moulting (ecdysis), and most trilobites possess facial sutures, lines of weakness in the cephalon, via which the exuviae is shed and the animal emerges. However, zones of weakness appear to represent a structural trade-off or constraint, particularly during burrowing; sacrificing a consolidated head region useful in burrowing for the ability to moult. Here we reconcile this trade-off by using biomechanical modelling to demonstrate that facial sutures exist in regions of low stress during the application of burrowing loads. Furthermore, facial sutures and the structure of the cephalon enable sutured trilobites to withstand greater stresses than their non-suture counterparts. We suggest that this ability to withstand greater burrowing loads enabled trilobites to successfully invade bioturbated and more consolidated sediments of the Cambrian Sediment Revolution, thus facilitating their diversification in the Cambrian and Ordovician and contributing to the evolutionary success of this iconic arthropod group.

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