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Cryptolithus Trilobite Fossil Facts and Information - The Lace Collar Trilobite

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  • Beautiful cryptolithus trilobite fossil, showing the lace collar. From Swatara Gap, Pennsylvania

    Fast Facts about Cryptolithus Trilobites

    Name: Cryptolithus (pronunciation: "crypto - lithus") - In Latin, Crypto means "hidden" and Lithus means "stone". Cryptolithus translates into "Hidden Stone".

    Common Name: "Lace Collar" Trilobite:
    The little pits, or fenestrae on the priphery of the cephalon used for filter feeding look like miniature lace collars.

    Taxonomy: Phylum: Arthropoda - Class: Trilobita - Order: Asaphida - Superfamily: Trinucleioidea - Family: Trinucleidae - Genus: Cryptolithus

    Species: C. Bellulus and C. Tessellatus

    Age: Ordovician

    Distribution: North America

    Body Size:
    Cryptolithus are small trilobites. They are usually less than one inch in length (25 mm).

    Filter Feeder

    Physical Appearance:
    The cephalon of cryptoluthus is wide and contains main small holes. These holes were used for filter feeding. Cryptolithus also have very long genial spines. The spines are longer than the trilobite.

    Cryptolithus trilobite fossils from Swatara Gap, Pennsylvania
    Cryptolithus trilobite fossils from Swatara Gap, Pennsylvania.

    Cryptolithus Trilobite (Lace Collar Trilobite) Facts and Information:

    Cryptolithus trilobites are a genus of small (less than an inch), blind, trilobites from the Ordovician. They are often called "Lace Collar" Trilobites, because of the little pits, or fenestrae on the priphery of the cephalon. These pits can easily be seen in the images above. The pits were actuall holes, The trilobite would stir up sediment and filter it through these holes. It was thus a filter feeder, feeding on debris near the bottom of the sea floor.

    Lace collar trilobites, besides for the lace-like cephalon, are also known for their very long genial spines. These spines are actually longer than the trilobite, from cephalon to pygidium.

    Although they are a very small genus of trilobite, they are incredibly beautiful. Unfortunately, most of the time they are found as fragments. However, some Ordovician formations were preserved in just the right conditions to leave these trilobites intact. One such formation is the Martinsburg Formation. This formation was exposed in the famous Swatara Gap, in Lebanon County, PA. This formation left casts of the trilobites coated in a fine rust colored powder called limonite. Limonite is a type of iron oxide, specifically, it's an iron oxide-hydroxide powder.

    Cryptolithus Trilobite Locality Information:

    Cryptolithus can be found in the upper Ordovician formations in North America.

    The world famous specimens of C. bellulus come from the Martinsburg Formation. A famouse collecting locality for this formation was the Swatara Gap locality in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania. Here, the fossils, including complete Cryptolithus, are coated with a beautiful rusty iron-oxide powder. Cryptolithus tessellatus are common in the Kope Formation. The Kope formation is an extensive upper Ordovician formation that runs through Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio. Unfortunately, whole Cryptolithus trilobites are rare in this formation, although fragments can be abundant

    Cryptolithus fragments in a Kope Formation 'hash plate'

    The above and below images show 'hash plate' sections from the Kope Formation. It is composed almost entirely of crinoid fragments, some brachiopods, bryozoans, and Cryptolithus trilobite fragments.

    Kope formation Matrix - Crinoids and Cryptolithus fragments

    Kope formation Matrix - Crinoids and Cryptolithus fragments

    Recommended Books

    Trilobites: Common Trilobites of North America (A NatureGuide Book)
    by Jasper Burns, 2000

    Jasper Burns has some great illustrated fossil guide books. This one is on the Trilobites of North America. It has detailed illustrations of 41 species of North American trilobites and includes information about trilobite paleobiology, vision, growth, extinction, and much more! It's a nice little resource book for those interested in North American trilobites. It's also a very inexpensive book. Check it out!

    A Sea without Fish: Life in the Ordovician Sea of the Cincinnati Region (Life of the Past)
    by Richard Arnold Davis and David L. Meyer, 2009

    This book gives a comprehensive view of life in the Ordovician seas. This is a wonderful introduction to the geology, paleontology, and paleobiology of the Ohio seas 450 million years ago is full of illustrations. If you have ever wondered what exactly the Ordovician of Ohio and the surrounding states looked like, this is your window!

    Cryptolithus Fossil Examples

    Cryptolithus Bellulus from Swatara Gap

    Cryptolithus bellulus trilobite fossil from Swatara Gap, Pennsylvania

    This is a beautiful cryptolithus preserved in iron-oxide power. Notice the lace collar, and long genial spines.

    Formation:Martinsburg Formation
    Age:Upper Ordovician     Location:Swatara Gap, Lebanon Co., PA

    Cryptolithus bellulus trilobite fossil from Swatara Gap, PA

    This is a nother complete cryptolithus trilobite fossil. The lace collar is not very visible at this angle.

    Formation:Martinsburg Formation
    Age:Upper Ordovician     Location:Swatara Gap, Lebanon Co., PA

    Cryptolithus bellulus trilobite fossil from Swatara Gap, Pennsylvania

    This is a cephalon of a cryptolithus

    Formation:Martinsburg Formation
    Age:Upper Ordovician     Location:Swatara Gap, Lebanon Co., PA

    Cryptolithus tessellatus from the Kope Formation
    Cryptolithus fragments
from the Kope Formation

    This is part of a 'hash plate' from the Kope Formation. It shows numerous Crinoid fragments, as well as pieces of bryozoan, brachiopods, and Cryptolithus tessellatus trilobites.

    Formation:Kope Formation
    Age:Ordovician     Location:Ohio