Trilobites are extinct marine arthropods that form the class Trilobita. Trilobites form one of the earliest known groups of arthropods. The first appearance of trilobites in the fossil record defines the base of the Atdabanian stage of the Early Cambrian period (521 million years ago).
Trilobites featured three lobes on their exoskeletons and had half-moon-shaped skulls through which they breathed using their legs. These creatures have been found in layers of petrified ash within sandstone long the coast of Ko Tarutao island in Thailand. The layers were formed by ancient volcanic eruptions that settled on the sea floor, resulting in a green layer known as tuff.
"The tuffs will allow us to not only determine the age of the fossils we found in Thailand, but to better understand parts of the world like China, Australia, and even North America where similar fossils have been found in rocks that cannot be dated," said Shelly Wernette, the first author of the monograph, which details the new fossil findings.
The researchers from the University of California identified 12 types of trilobites which had previously been documented in other parts of the world, but never in Thailand.
Nigel Hughes, monograph co-author and UC Riverside geology professor, said “Because continents shift over time, part of our job has been to work out where this region of Thailand was in relation to the rest of Gondwanaland. It’s a moving, shape-shifting, 3D jigsaw puzzle we’re trying to put together. This discovery will help us do that."
The findings have been described in a monograph published in the journal Papers in Palaeontology.
Tuff-bearing upper Cambrian to lowermost Ordovician strata on Ko Tarutao island, Satun province, southernmost peninsular Thailand, contain a rich trilobite fauna relevant to global biostratigraphy, peri-Gondwanan palaeogeography and shifting evolutionary mode. This area of Sibumasu, a lower Palaeozoic marginal Gondwanan terrane, is shown to have been closely associated with Australia, North China (Sino-Korea) and other continental fragments from the supercontinent's northern equatorial sector, including South China at that time. Shared faunas also suggest a Kazakhstani and Laurentian association. Collections from eight sections yielded 10 newly discovered species and one new genus from ancient shoreface and inner shelf siliciclastic deposits. With the new taxa and revision of taxa known previously, we refine the age of the upper two formations of the Tarutao Group to the middle of Cambrian Stage 10, and lower–middle Tremadocian. Two biozones are erected for Sibumasu: the Eosaukia buravasi Zone, encompassing all Cambrian sections from Ko Tarutao, and the Asaphellus charoenmiti Zone, encompassing the Tremadocian fauna discussed herein. The new genus is Tarutaoia and new species are Tsinania sirindhornae, Pseudokoldinioidia maneekuti, Pagodia? uhleini, Asaphellus charoenmiti, Tarutaoia techawani, Jiia talowaois, Caznaia imsamuti, Anderssonella undulata, Lophosaukia nuchanongi and Corbinia perforata. Other taxa reported for the first time from Tarutao are Mansuyia? sp., Parakoldinioidia callosa Qian, Pseudagnostus sp., Homagnostus sp., Haniwa mucronata Shergold, Haniwa sosanensis? Kobayashi, Lichengia simplex Shergold, Pacootasaukia sp., Wuhuia? sp., Plethopeltella sp., Apatokephalus sp., Akoldinioidia sp. 1 and Koldinioidia sp.