Hypostome (trilobite)

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A partially complete, forked, conterminant hypostome of the trilobite Isotelus (Ordovician of southern Ohio). IsotelusHypostome.JPG
A partially complete, forked, conterminant hypostome of the trilobite Isotelus (Ordovician of southern Ohio).

The hypostome is the hard mouthpart of trilobites found on the ventral side of the cephalon (head). The hypostome can be classified into three types based on whether they are permanently attached to the rostrum or not and whether they are aligned to the anterior dorsal tip of the glabella.



The center of the hypostome is an ovoid, typically convex part called the median body, often divided into an anterior lobe and a posterior lobe. Either side of the median body is a border with various extensions, including anterior and posterior wings, sometimes bearing knob-like processes. The hypostome is hollow, and encloses the mouthparts, the anterior digestive tract, and the bases of the antennae. Trilobite antennae pass through notches between the anterior and posterior wings, then forward. The anterior wings are designed to rest firmly against internal structures (ventral apodemes) on the glabella. [1]

Variation in trilobite hypostome morphology is crucial in modern discussions of trilobite phylogeny. [2] [3] Functional interpretations of hypostome shape also allow for reasonable speculation on the feeding habits of trilobite species. [4]


Although hypostome morphology is highly variable, three broad types are generally recognized:

Trilobite hypostome types (in blue) Trilobite hypostome types based on attachment (labeled).png
Trilobite hypostome types (in blue)


A natant hypostome is not attached to the anterior doublure, with support assumed to be provided by a non-mineralised membrane. Natant hypostomes appear to have been conservative over the course of the evolution of trilobites [2] with overall form and shape of a simple ovoid without posterior extensions or ornamentation. [1] Natant hypostomes are thought to be ancestral to other hypostome forms [2] and thought to belong to trilobites with generalized particle feeding habits (i.e. little need to modify mouth-parts to deal with specialized food items). [4]


A conterminant hypostome is attached to the anterior doublure, aligned with the front edge of the glabella and found on trilobites thought of as predators. Anchoring the hypostome against the anterior doublure and cephalon provides structural bracing against which to tear apart prey. Different specializations of hypostome form might reflect different kinds of prey, or different feeding behaviors. [4]


An impendent hyposome is attached to the anterior doublure but not aligned with the front edge of the glabella. Many impendent hypostomes have prongs, grooves and other adaptations thought to relate to feeding on complex food sources. [4]

See also

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Redlichiida order of arthropods (fossil)

Redlichiida is an order of trilobites, a group of extinct marine arthropods. Species assigned to the order Redlichiida are among the first trilobites to appear in the fossil record, about halfway during the Lower Cambrian. Due to the difficulty to relate sediments in different areas, there remains some discussion, but among the earliest are Fallotaspis, and Lemdadella, both belonging to this order. The first representatives of the orders Corynexochida and Ptychopariida also appear very early on and may prove to be even earlier than any redlichiid species. In terms of anatomical comparison, the earliest redlichiid species are probably ancestral to all other trilobite orders and share many primitive characters. The last redlichiid trilobites died out before the end of the Middle Cambrian.

<i>Phacops</i> Genus of arthropods (fossil)

Phacops is a genus of trilobites in the order Phacopida, family Phacopidae, that lived in Europe, northwestern Africa, North and South America and China from the Late Ordovician until the very end of the Devonian, with a broader time range described from the Late Ordovician. It was a rounded animal, with a globose head and large eyes, and probably fed on detritus. Phacops is often found rolled up, a biological defense mechanism that is widespread among smaller trilobites but further perfected in this genus.

<i>Dalmanites</i> genus of trilobites

Dalmanites is a genus of trilobite in the order Phacopida. They lived from the Late Ordovician to Middle Devonian.

<i>Paradoxides</i> genus of trilobites

Paradoxides is a genus of large to very large trilobites found throughout the world during the Mid Cambrian period. One record-breaking specimen of Paradoxides davidis is 37 cm (15 in). It has a semicircular head, free cheeks each ending with a long, narrow, recurved spine, and sickle-shaped eyes, providing almost 360° view, but only in the horizontal plane. Its elongated trunk was composed of 19-21 segments and was adorned with longish, recurved lateral spines. Its pygidium was comparatively small. Paradoxides is a characteristic Middle Cambrian trilobite of the 'Atlantic' (Avalonian) fauna. Avalonian rocks were deposited near a small continent called Avalonia in the Paleozoic Iapetus Ocean. Avalonian beds are now in a narrow strip along the East Coast of North America, and in Europe.

Emuellidae family of arthropods (fossil)

Emuellidae are a small family of trilobites, a group of extinct marine arthropods, that lived during the late Lower Cambrian of the East Gondwana supercontinent, in what are today South-Australia and Antarctica. Emuellidae can be recognized among trilobites in having a set of unique features. The headshield or cephalon has large genal spines reaching back as far as the 3rd to 6th segment of the thorax. The eye-ridges contact the back of the frontal lobe of the glabella and extend laterally and backwards, roughly parallel to the frontal and lateral rim of the cephalon. There are small, clearly incised pits at the junction between the eye-ridge and the frontal lobe of the cephalic axis. The thorax reaches its greatest width at the 6th segment. The frontal part or prothorax consists of 6 segments, with number 5 and 6 fused, and the 6th carrying very large trailing spines. The rear part or opistothorax consists of a variable but extremely large number of seqments.

<i>Agnostus</i> genus of trilobites (fossil)

Agnostus is a genus of agnostid trilobites that lived during the upper Middle Cambrian–lower Upper Cambrian. It is the type genus of the family Agnostidae. It is subdivided into two subgenera, Agnostus and Homagnostus.

<i>Olenoides</i> genus of trilobites

Olenoides was a trilobite from the Cambrian period. Its fossils are found well-preserved in the Burgess Shale in Canada. It grew up to 10 cm long.

<i>Asaphus</i> genus of trilobites

Asaphus is a genus of trilobites, that is known from the Lower and Middle Ordovician of northwestern Europe.

<i>Dikelocephalus</i> genus of trilobites

Dikelocephalus is a genus of very large trilobites of up to 50 cm (20 in) long, that lived during the last 3 million years of the Cambrian (Sunwaptan). Their fossils are commonly found as disarticulated sclerites, in the upper Mississippi Valley and in Canada (Alberta). The exoskeleton is rounded anteriorly, with the thorax and sides of the tailshield slightly tapering to about ⅔× of the width across the base of the spines at the back of the headshield. At the side corners of the pygidium there may be triangular or hooked spines, pointing backwards, while between the spines the posterior margin is at a 30-75° angle with the lateral margin, gently convex or nearly straight. If pygidial spines are lacking, the margin is gradually rounded. The thorax has 12 segments.

<i>Tsunyidiscus</i> genus of trilobites

Tsunyidiscus is a genus of eodiscinid agnostid trilobites. Tsunyidiscus occurs near the end of the Lower Cambrian, during the late Atdabanian stage period and some collections suggest it may have survived into the Botomian. They are very small, have eyes, and equal sized head and tail shields, with a narrow dome-shaped glabella and a narrow bullet-shape pygidial axis. It has a thorax of three segments. Tsunyidiscus is the only genus currently attributed to the family Tsunyidiscidae.

<i>Pagetia</i> genus of trilobites

Pagetia is a genus of very small, agnostid trilobites, assigned to the family Eodiscidae, and that had a global distribution during the Middle Cambrian. The genus contains 55 currently recognized species, each with a limited spatial and temporal distribution.

<i>Aulacopleura</i> genus of trilobites

Aulacopleura is a genus of proetid trilobite that lived from the Middle Ordovician to the Middle Devonian. The cephalon is semicircular or semielliptical, with border and preglabellar field. The glabella is short, with or without defined eye ridges connecting it with eyes of variable size. Spines at the rear outer corners of the cephalon are present, typically reaching back to the 2nd to 4th thorax segment. The 'palate' is not connected to the dorsal shield of the cephalon. The cephalon is pitted, or has small tubercles. The thorax has up to 22 segments. The pleural ends are usually rounded. The pygidium is small (micropygous), with an even margin.

The cephalon is the head section of an arthropod. It is a tagma, i.e., a specialized grouping of arthropod segments. The word cephalon derives from the Greek κεφαλή (kephalē), meaning "head".

<i>Buenaspis</i> Small cambrian anthropod

Buenaspis is a genus of small marine arthropods in the family Liwiidae, that lived during the early Cambrian period. Fossil remains of Buenaspis were collected from the Lower Cambrian Sirius Passet Lagerstätte of North Greenland. Buenaspis looks like a soft eyeless trilobite. It has a headshield slightly larger than the tailshield (pygidium), and in between them six thoracic body segments (somites). The genus is monotypic, its sole species being Buenaspis forteyi.

<i>Conocoryphe</i> genus of primarily eyeless trilobites belonging to the family Conocoryphidae

Conocoryphe is a genus of primarily eyeless trilobites belonging to the family Conocoryphidae. They lived during the Middle Cambrian period, about 505 million years ago. These arthropods lived on the sea bottom (epifaunal) and lived off dead particulate organic matter.

<i>Odontochile</i> genus of trilobites

Odontochile is a genus of trilobites in the order Phacopida, family Dalmanitidae.

Eodiscina suborder of arthropods (fossil)

Eodiscina is a suborder of trilobite arthropods. The Eodiscina first developed near the end of the Lower Cambrian period and became extinct at the end of the Middle Cambrian. Species are tiny to small, and have a thorax of two or three segments. Eodiscina includes six families classified under one superfamily, Eodiscoidea.

Tannudiscus is an extinct genus from a well-known class of fossil marine arthropods, the trilobites. It lived during the upper Lower Cambrian, with remains found in Canada (Newfoundland), China (Gansu), The United Kingdom (England), and the Russian Federation.

<i>Viaphacops</i> genus of arthropods (fossil)

Viaphacops is a genus of trilobites in the order Phacopida, family Phacopidae, that lived during the Middle Devonian, and is known from North and South America, Asia.


  1. 1 2 Whittington, H.B. (1997a), "Morphology of the Exoskeleton.", in Kaesler, R.L. (ed.), Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology, Part O, Arthropoda 1, Trilobita, revised. Volume 1: Introduction, Order Agnostida, Order Redlichiida., Boulder, CO & Lawrence, KA: The Geological Society of America, Inc. & The University of Kansas, pp.  1–85, ISBN   0-8137-3115-1
  2. 1 2 3 Fortey, R.A. (1990), "Ontogeny, Hypostome attachment and Trilobite classification" (PDF), Palaeontology, 33 (3): 529–576, archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-03-26
  3. Fortey, RA (2001), "Trilobite systematics: The last 75 years", Journal of Paleontology, 75: 1141–51, doi:10.1666/0022-3360(2001)075<1141:TSTLY>2.0.CO;2
  4. 1 2 3 4 Fortey, R. A.; Owens, R. M. (1999), "Feeding habits in trilobites", Palaeontology, 42 (3): 429–65, doi:10.1111/1475-4983.00080