Nav: Home

New 'king' of fossils discovered in Australia

June 13, 2019

Fossils of a giant new species from the long-extinct group of sea creatures called trilobites have been found on Kangaroo Island, South Australia.

The finding is adding important insights to our knowledge of the Cambrian 'explosion', the greatest diversification event in the history of life on Earth, when almost all animal groups suddenly appeared over half-a-billion years ago.

Trilobites, which had hard, calcified, armour-like skeletons over their bodies, are related to modern crustaceans and insects. They are one of the most successful fossil animal groups, surviving for about 270 million years (521 to 252 million years ago). Because of their abundance in the fossil record, they are considered a model group for understanding this evolutionary period.

"We decided to name this new species of trilobite Redlichia rex (similar to Tyrannosaurus rex) because of its giant size, as well as its formidable legs with spines used for crushing and shredding food - which may have been other trilobites," says James Holmes, PhD student with the University of Adelaide's School of Biological Sciences, who led the research.

The preservation of trilobite 'soft parts' such as the antennae and legs is extremely rare. The new species was discovered at the Emu Bay Shale on Kangaroo Island, a world-renowned deposit famous for this type of preservation. The findings have been published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology by a team of scientists from the University of Adelaide, South Australian Museum and the University of New England.

The new species is about 500 million years old, and is the largest Cambrian trilobite discovered in Australia. It grew to around 30 cm in length, which is almost twice the size of other Australian trilobites of similar age.

"Interestingly, trilobite specimens from the Emu Bay Shale - including Redlichia rex - exhibit injuries that were caused by shell-crushing predators," says senior study author Associate Professor Diego García-Bellido, from the University of Adelaide and the South Australian Museum.

"There are also large specimens of fossilised poo (or coprolites) containing trilobite fragments in this fossil deposit. The large size of injured Redlichia rex specimens and the associated coprolites suggests that either much bigger predators were targeting Redlichia rex, such as Anomalocaris - an even larger shrimp-like creature - or that the new species had cannibalistic tendencies."

One of the major drivers of the Cambrian explosion was likely an evolutionary "arms race" between predators and prey, with each developing more effective measures of defence (such as the evolution of shells) and attack.

"The overall size and crushing legs of Redlichia rex are a likely consequence of the arms race that occurred at this time" says James Holmes. "This giant trilobite was likely the terror of smaller creatures on the Cambrian seafloor."
-end-
Specimens of Redlichia rex and other Emu Bay Shale fossils are currently on display in the South Australian Museum.

Media Contact:

James Holmes, PhD candidate, School of Biological Sciences, University of Adelaide. Mobile: +61 (0)406 622 209, james.holmes@adelaide.edu.au

Associate Professor Diego García-Bellido, Environment Institute, School of Biological Sciences, University of Adelaide. Mobile: +61 (0)404 426 249, diego.garcia-bellido@adelaide.edu.au

Robyn Mills, Media Officer, University of Adelaide. Phone: +61 (0)8 8313 6341, Mobile: +61 (0)410 689 084, robyn.mills@adelaide.edu.au

University of Adelaide

Related Fossils Articles:

Tiny fossils reveal backstory of the most mysterious amphibian alive
Researchers have determined that the fossils of an extinct species from the Triassic Period are the long-missing link that connects Kermit the Frog's amphibian brethren to wormlike creatures with a backbone and two rows of sharp teeth.
Moroccan fossils show human ancestors' diet of game
New fossil finds from the Jebel Irhoud archaeological site in Morocco do more than push back the origins of our species by 100,000 years.
South African cave yields yet more fossils of a newfound relative
Probing deeper into the South African cave system known as Rising Star, which last year yielded the largest cache of hominin fossils known to science, an international team of researchers has discovered another chamber with more remains of a newfound human relative, Homo naledi.
Research sheds new light on 'world's oldest animal fossils'
A team of researchers, led by the University of Bristol, has uncovered that ancient fossils, thought to be some of the world's earliest examples of animal remains, could in fact belong to other groups such as algae.
Viral fossils reveal how our ancestors may have eliminated an ancient infection
Scientists have uncovered how our ancestors may have wiped out an ancient retrovirus around 11 million years ago.
World's oldest plant-like fossils discovered
Scientists at the Swedish Museum of Natural History have found fossils of 1.6 billion-year-old probable red algae.
World's oldest fossils unearthed
Remains of microorganisms at least 3,770 million years old have been discovered by an international team led by UCL scientists, providing direct evidence of one of the oldest life forms on Earth.
New study gives weight to Darwin's theory of 'living fossils'
A team of researchers from the University of Bristol studying the 'living fossil' Sphenodon -- or tuatara -- have identified a new way to measure the evolutionary rate of these enigmatic creatures, giving credence to Darwin's theory of 'living fossils.'
Fossils found reveal unseen 'footprint' maker
Fossils found in Morocco from the long-extinct group of sea creatures called trilobites, including rarely seen soft-body parts, may be previously unseen animals that left distinctive fossil 'footprints' around the ancient supercontinent Gondwana.
The best way to include fossils in the 'tree of life'
A team of scientists from the University of Bristol has suggested that we need to use a fresh approach to analyze relationships in the fossil record to show how all living and extinct species are related in the 'tree of life.'

Related Fossils Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Digital Manipulation
Technology has reshaped our lives in amazing ways. But at what cost? This hour, TED speakers reveal how what we see, read, believe — even how we vote — can be manipulated by the technology we use. Guests include journalist Carole Cadwalladr, consumer advocate Finn Myrstad, writer and marketing professor Scott Galloway, behavioral designer Nir Eyal, and computer graphics researcher Doug Roble.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#529 Do You Really Want to Find Out Who's Your Daddy?
At least some of you by now have probably spit into a tube and mailed it off to find out who your closest relatives are, where you might be from, and what terrible diseases might await you. But what exactly did you find out? And what did you give away? In this live panel at Awesome Con we bring in science writer Tina Saey to talk about all her DNA testing, and bioethicist Debra Mathews, to determine whether Tina should have done it at all. Related links: What FamilyTreeDNA sharing genetic data with police means for you Crime solvers embraced...