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A specimen of Eldredgeops rana from the Devonian (385 mil. yrs. ago) displaying the unique spotted pattern.

WIU Professor, Student Part of Trilobite Discovery

May 9, 2013


MACOMB, IL - Western Illinois University Department of Geology Assistant Professor Thomas Hegna and one of his undergraduate researchers are part of a discovery and publication about new research concerning Middle Devonian phacopid trilobites in New York.

The research involves unique spotted patterns found on the exoskeleton in one species of trilobite, the Eldredgeops rana.

Hegna co-authored the research with other geologists, including Morgan Stice, a senior geology major from Quincy, IL. The paper that emerged from the research has since been featured in publications, including National Geographic and Nature magazine, and websites such as Live Science.

"None of the people involved in the project expected it to get any sort of attention from the press," Hegna said. "This is not a discovery that will change the world, but like the discovery of the color of some of the feathered dinosaurs in China, this makes the past more real to us – and I think this is what has caught people's attention."

The fossils were discovered in central and western New York and mark the first known trilobites to have their markings unaltered by fossilization. Preservation of color in the fossil record is rare.

The project began as separate undergraduate projects, when the researchers learned they were working on the same subject and began to collaborate.

Hegna received his master's degree in geoscience from the University of Iowa, his master's in geology and geophysics from Yale University and his doctorate degree in geology and geophysics from Yale, with an emphasis on arthropod palebiology, phylogeny and taphonomy.

To read the articles about the findings of Hegna and others, visit Nature magazine at nature.com/nature/journal/v495/n7442/full/495412c.html; National Geographic at news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/03/130327-trilobite-spots-marine-paleontology-science/ and Live Science at livescience.com/28196-ancient-trilobites-featured-spotted-camouflage.html.

Posted By: WIU News, University Relations
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