Friday, 7 October 2011

Creep on creepin' on

Last week, two young women are looking at the trilobites.

'Ooh, look at these eels! How weird.'
'Those aren't eels - they're some sort of fish.'

Most weeks I'll be asked what trilobites were. To reply you need to gauge exactly how interested people are in the answer. Some are more than happy to listen to your five minute spiel about one of the most interesting animals to have graced the planet. Most aren't, though, and some variation of 'kind of like a slater that lived in the sea' is what they're after.

For a beastie that's given so much to science, I reckon they're still flying under the radar a little. As I mentioned a few weeks back, Attenborough's First Life last year got them some publicity, and some ten years ago Richard Fortey's Trilobite was something of a popular science sensation. His engaging enthusiasm for trilobites made for an accessible and rewarding read for people with no geological background. For a few weeks, trilobites made the papers. I can see that they're a harder sell than dinosaurs. Not as immediately recognisable as the iconic spiral of the ammonite, or as dramatic as giant shark teeth. They may be destined to remain the creepy crawly of the fossil record (I once had a woman return one to the shop as she 'couldn't sleep with it in the house'), but trilobites deserve a little more love, I reckon.

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