Gut content fossilization and evidence for detritus feeding habits in an enrolled trilobite from the Cambrian of China

Abstract : Enrolment was a major defensive strategy for trilobites that significantly contributed to their evolutionary success. The ability to enrol also helped to constrain the morphological evolution of trilobites, which in part was driven by the need to improve this capability to encapsulate the soft parts of the body within the mineralized dorsal exoskeleton. Here, we describe a unique example of gut content fossilization in an enrolled trilobite from the Cambrian of China, and we propose a taphonomic scenario that considers the possible implication of enrolment in this exceptional preservation. A micro-facies analysis indicates that the specimen was entombed during an obrution event and remained intact due to limited infaunal activity. The encapsulation of the body did not prevent the decay of soft tissues, but it permitted the delicate gut content to be protected during diagenesis. In isolating the decaying soft tissues from the external environment, enrolment might also have favoured the establishment of microenvironmental conditions conducive to the precipitation of pyrite framboids. Within the gut, the formation of such crystals may have led to the consolidation of the ingested material. These results suggest that fossilized gut contents might be quite common in enrolled trilobites. Textural and compositional analyses reveal that the gut content is similar to the sediment surrounding the fossil except for the presence of pyrite framboids that indicate higher initial organic matter content. The complete enrolment of the body argues against an accidental ingestion of this material or a diagenetic origin for it. Accordingly, detritus feeding habits are inferred for this ptychopariid trilobite.
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Xuejian Zhu, Rudy Lerosey-Aubril, Jorge Esteve. Gut content fossilization and evidence for detritus feeding habits in an enrolled trilobite from the Cambrian of China. LETHAIA, 2014, 47 (1), pp.66--76. ⟨10.1111/let.12041⟩. ⟨hal-02350700⟩

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