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Intraspecific bimodal variability in eye lenses of two Devonian trilobites

  • Catherine Crônier (a1), Petr Budil (a2), Oldřich Fatka (a3) and Lukáš Laibl (a4)

Arthropods are known to display a variable number of eye lenses and this number mostly increases during their development. In trilobites, most species possessing schizochroal eyes exhibit a notable intraspecific variation in the number of dorso ventral files of eye lenses that can be age related (i.e., growth) or not (i.e., living environment). Several previous studies have shown that some trilobite groups (e.g. phacopids) tend to have fewer lenses/files in representatives from the deeper habitats than those from shallower habitats. In this study, we analyzed the pattern of variation in the number of dorso ventral files of eye lenses in two Devonian phacopid trilobites from the Prague Basin of the Czech Republic. We quantified their intraspecific variability. To better understand the patterning, we compared more than 120 individuals. Data first reveal evidence of a bimodal distribution of lens/file number without intermediate forms among each of two studied populations of Prokops prokopi (Chlupáč, 1971) and throughout the ontogeny of Pedinopariops insequens (Chlupáč, 1977). Our results indicate that caution must be taken for taxonomical affiliation and biodiversity analyses of taxa in which the intraspecific variability is unclear. Additionally, we investigated possible relations of these bimodalities to the stratigraphical position of studied populations and to the paleoenvironment. In Prokops prokopi, a slightly different age of both populations, together with supposed differences in the local environments can be responsible for observed variability. In Pedinopariops insequens, stress conditions possibly related to the approaching onset of the Basal Choteč Event can be responsible for surprising intrapopulation variability. We speculate that the stress conditions could cause a bimodal selection and possibly also the change of ontogenetic trajectory within this species. Pedinopariops insequens was the only phacopid in the Prague Basin that crosses the Lower/Middle Devonian boundary and survived also the onset of Basal Choteč Event.

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