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Moulting in phacopid trilobites

  • Stephen E. Speyer (a1)


Phacopid trilobites, unlike most trilobites, lack functionally articulated libregenae. This distinction presumably dictated ecdysial strategies which were fundamentally different from those forms with sutured cephala. Phacops rana (Green) and Greenops boothi (Green) from the Middle Devonian Hamilton Group (New York) are preserved in circumstances which illustrate certain aspects of their moulting behaviour. Undisturbed exuviae display five different moult patterns; these suggest two basic modes of exuviation in phacopid trilobites (Body-upright and Body Inversion Moult Procedures).

Certain Hamilton beds yield clusters of Phacops comprising complete and/or moulted remains. Complete trilobites in body clusters display varied orientations which, when considered in conjunction with exuvial patterns in moult clusters, suggest ecdysial procedures that involved body inversion and erratic tergal contractions (Body Inversion Moult Procedures). Ensembles where in thoracopygidia are upright and outstretched indicate hyperextension of the thorax and disarticulation of the cephalo-thoracic suture (Body-upright Moult Procedures). Phacops moult ensembles are characterised by inverted and tightly recurved thoracopygidia, whereas Greenops ensembles comprise outstretched, usually upright thoracopygidia with cephala that are frequently upright. Classic ‘Salterian’ patterns are uncommon in Phacops rana and have not been recognised in Greenops boothi. Variations in moult procedure are attributed to differences in functional morphology and substrate consistency.



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