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Keywords:

  • Trilobita;
  • Phacopida;
  • functional morphology;
  • enrollment;
  • paleobiology;
  • taphonomy;
  • Middle Devonian

Although it is common knowledge that many trilobites enrolled, behavioral and functional aspects of enrollment are not at all well understood. Taphonomic details portrayed by enrolled trilobites in the Middle Devonian Hamilton Group (New York State) indicate that enrollment was a complex and morphologically constrained behavior. The trilobites Phacops rana (Green) and Greenops boothi (Green) are frequently enrolled in Hamilton strata; biostratinomic data indicate two very different enrollment postures. Interlocking morphologies (coaptative devices) and apodeme structure and disposition indicate that these postures reflect specific behaviors which involved interaction between tergal structures, inferred musculature, and the substratum. Phacops enrolled by burrowing forward and down into the sediment; dorsal muscles, attached to prominent articulating half-rings, imbricated the thorax such that each lappet overlapped the next posterior segment and locked into a posterior pleural facet. The pygidium was brought into place as the posterior segments of the thorax were placed into vincular notches along the lateral margin of the ventral cephalon. The pygidium locked with the cephalic vincular furrow to complete ‘perfect sphaeroidal’ closure. Greenops enrolled with the cephalon in an upright position at the sediment surface; a submarginal furrow on the ventral surface of the pygidium received the anterior rim of the cephalon. Relatively narrow articulating half-rings limited pleural rotation. Segments were loosely locked into narrow facets at the anterior margin of the next posterior lappet. In spite of rudimentary lappet and half-ring structures, Greenops displays an elaborate system of thoracopygidial muscles which involved dorsoventral and longitudinal attachments along the thorax and into the pygidium. Phacops, in contrast, displays very poorly developed apodemes which occur in the thorax only. Longitudinal muscle strength was likely less important during Phacops enrollment than is evident for the Greenops enrollment procedure. Conversely, Phacops clearly relied to a great degree upon competent closure devices which are poorly developed in Greenops. Biostratinomic data reveal different enrollment behaviors which reflect the function of different enrollment-related morphologies present in each species.