Young Tennessee girl discovers 475-million-year-old trilobite fossil

fossils museum display

Tennessee girl created a hype with her evening walk at Douglas Lake. The 11-year-old spotted a 475-million-year-old fossil during her walk around the lake shores. As per the reports, Ryleigh Taylor, living in the east region of the area,  was walking along with the shore of Douglas Lake and found the 475-million-year-old fossil.

Later, the findings were handed over to a nearby university i.e. University of Tennessee, where,  paleobiology professor Colin Sumrall tested it thoroughly. After examining the fossil Sumrall reported that it was a belonging to an extinct sea creature known as a trilobite.

“Typically when we look at fossils of trilobites, they molt when they grow,” Sumrall told ABC affiliate “So what happens is, when the trilobite skeleton just crumbles into hundreds of little pieces. To find one where all the pieces are intact, it’s actually a pretty lucky find.”

As per an article published on, trilobites proliferated and thrived throughout the Paleozoic world, comprising one of the earliest known groups of arthropods. trilobites comprised one of the earliest known groups of arthropods and thrived throughout the Paleozoic era with more than 600 species.

For nearly 300 million years, the sea creatures resembling modern horseshoe crabs scoured the oceans.

Sumrall said he could imagine Ryleigh as a great paleontologist one day.

“I can show kids that are my age that they don’t have to sit inside and play games. They can actually go outside and find different things,” Ryleigh told WATE.

“I’m surprised that it was right on top of that rock, for anyone who could have found it. But I’m very proud of her,” said Tammy Taylor, Ryleigh’s mother.

Ryleigh hopes other children will get out and enjoy nature, so they can see what they can find.  Sumrall adds, “To find something like that, it could spark this youngster into a whole career. Maybe she’ll become a great paleontologist one day.”

There’s no telling what the future holds for Ryleigh. For now, she’s happy to continue exploring. Ryleigh doesn’t plan on keeping the fossil. She wants it to be displayed in a public museum so other people can enjoy it.


Trilobites proliferated and thrived throughout the Paleozoic world, comprising one of the earliest known groups of arthropods. They flourished to over 600 species at their zenith, including many with exotic exoskeletons and unique feeding strategies. They are probably most closely related to modern horseshoe crabs.

Though the Cambrian (521 mya) marks the appearance of trilobites in the fossil record, they were already highly diverse. They continued to proliferate until their decline in the Devonian and eventual disappearance in the Permian mass extinction (250 mya).

Few points about trilobites:

  • Trilobites evolved profound adaptations that place them among the most successful of all early animals. They patrolled, hunted, and scoured the oceans for over 270 million years.
  • Trilobite means, “Three lobes.” This refers to their body plan.
  • Trilobites occupied different levels of the food web including predator, scavenger, and prey.
  • Trilobites molted their exoskeleton much like lobsters of today.
  • Most trilobites are one of the first animals known to have the sense of vision. They had compound eyes contained lenses made of calcite crystals, something unique to trilobites.
  • Trilobites had elaborate survival features such as eye stalks, spines, and an ability to enroll itself and shield its vulnerable parts from exposure.
  • Trilobites hatched from eggs and preceded through different growth stages.
  • Trilobites vary widely in size and shape. They can be so small enough to view with a microscope. They can also be quite large. Isotelus rex could grow 2 feet long.
  • Trilobites are typically found by splitting sheets of shale and hard limestone deposits.

See Also: Check your land records online. Read to know HOW?

Trilobites rank among the most important of early animals. Our knowledge of them has been gained from the study of their fossils, usually impressions left of their shells after burial in sediment which subsequently hardened into rock. They appeared abruptly in the early part of the Cambrian Period, and came to dominate the Cambrian and early Ordovician seas. A prolonged decline then set in before they finally became extinct in the Permian Period, about 250 million years ago.

Trilobites belonged to the phylum Arthropoda—like crustaceans, spiders and insects. They aredivided into three parts from head to tail (head, thorax and tail) and from side-to-side (the central axis and two lateral lobes). The word ‘trilobite’ refers to the side-to-side partition, not the head, thorax and tail.

Trilobites have long attracted popular as well as scientific attention. The Pahvant Ute Indians of Utah wore specimens of the Middle Cambrian trilobite Elrathia kingii around their necks as lucky charms. It is reported that they were used to guard against sickness and being shot.


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