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Tym the Trilobite: You eat me

Updated Thursday, 25th September 2008

Tym may have been a predator, but he was also prey.

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Trilobite detail

Ok, so I was pretty good at taking care of marine worms, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t on someone else’s menu! There were quite a few other ‘marine-nasties’ around at the time….

Some of the worst were the Nautiloids, great ugly, squid-like creatures that would swim down out of nowhere and gobble up innocent little trilobites that weren’t paying attention – I lost quite a few of my young friends and relations that way I can tell you.

But Nautiloids weren’t the real ‘bogymen’ that we had to look out for….our worst predator was a monstrous, bug-eyed, giant, swimming, shrimp-thing called Anomalocaris. They were about half a meter long, with a mouth like a bear trap and full of spines. God, we all lived in fear of them – it took bullying in the school playground to a whole new level. You kids might get roughed up –but I was in danger of being eaten alive!

Now, half a meter long might not sound very big to you, but given that most of us trilobites were only a few centimetres long – that made them about the size of great white shark and every bit as terrifying. If you were lucky, they swallowed you whole, if not: you just got bitten in half and died a slow lingering death. If you ask me, it's surely far better for death by a quick snap!

Oh no, just thinking about that has made me roll up. This is so, so embarrassing…

Phacops Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Open2 team
Phacops

Being able to curl up into a ball or enrol is one of the main protective mechanisms that we trilobites have, but I can’t always control it. I guess it sounds pretty cowardly, just curling up into a ball when you get scared.

But actually it works pretty well, especially because we have our skeletons on the outside of our bodies. When I curl up, I make sure all my soft bits like my legs and feelers are all tucked away inside and my exoskeleton is locked together perfectly. It works rather like the armour plating on an armadillo. When I enrol I look less like a tasty morsel and more like a pebble that no one would want to eat…

Well, as time went by, and since we were around for a long, long time - and lets face it, 300 million years is quite a lot of time - dear old evolution was working away in the background to conjure up some horrible new predators for us.

Fish

Great, nasty creatures with snapping jaws full of teeth; and we were right at the top of their list when it came to tasty bite-sized snacks! I’m sure you humans will feel for us on this one – it’s rather like you going swimming, surfing, snorkling or diving today and knowing that Jaws is out there just waiting to snap you up – you’re shark bait. Well, we trilobites suddenly became fish bait…

Interview with the trilobite

 

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