Phacops rana

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Phacops rana
Temporal range: Devonian
Phacops rana.jpg
Scientific classification
P. rana
Binomial name
Phacops rana
(Green, 1832)
  • P. rana rana
  • P. rana africanaBurton & Eldredge, 1974
  • P. rana crassituberculataStumm, 1953
  • P. rana milleriStewart, 1927
  • P. rana norwoodiensisStumm, 1953
  • P. rana paucituberculataEldredge, 1972
  • P. rana tindoufensisBurton & Eldredge, 1974 [1]

Phacops rana (Eldredgeops rana) is a species of trilobite from the middle Devonian period. Their fossils are found chiefly in the northeastern United States, southwestern Ontario, and in Morocco.



Phacops rana fossils Phacops rana fossils.jpg
Phacops rana fossils

Phacops rana can be recognized by its large eyes (which remind some observers of a frog's eyes—the specific name rana is a reference to a common frog), its fairly large size (up to 6 inches long), and its habit of rolling up into a ball like a pill bug. In order to protect themselves from predators, Phacops rana would roll into a ball with its hard exoskeleton on the outside as protection. Many other trilobites possessed the same ability, but Phacops rana nearly perfected it. The slightest amount of sediment would trigger their senses, and Phacops rana would be hidden in a tiny shelter made of its own body.[ citation needed ] Although this safety feature often helped them to evade predators, occasionally it backfired and the trilobite would be buried under heavy sediment. Their fossils can still be found in balled-up positions 400 million years later.


Phacops rana is found both in the northeastern U.S. and in Morocco; North America was attached to the African plate during the Devonian.

Because of its abundance and popularity with collectors, Phacops rana was designated the Pennsylvania state fossil by the state's General Assembly on December 5, 1988. [2]

Phacopid eyes

Enrolled Phacops rana from an outcrop of the Middle Devonian Mahantango Formation near Milesburg, Pennsylvania, with schizochroal eye visible Phacops-enrolled.jpg
Enrolled Phacops rana from an outcrop of the Middle Devonian Mahantango Formation near Milesburg, Pennsylvania, with schizochroal eye visible

The most striking feature of the morphology of Phacops rana and its relatives is their eyes. These differed from the eyes of most trilobites in having comparatively few lenses spaced between deep sclera. The lenses themselves were very rounded instead of largely flat. The eyes were mounted on turret-like structures which could swivel, providing the animal with an almost 360-degree field of view. This type of eye is known as the schizochroal eye.

Related Research Articles

The Devonian is a geologic period and system of the Paleozoic, spanning 60 million years from the end of the Silurian, 419.2 million years ago (Mya), to the beginning of the Carboniferous, 358.9 Mya. It is named after Devon, England, where rocks from this period were first studied.

Trilobite class of arthropods (fossil)

Trilobites are a group of extinct marine arachnomorph 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, and they flourished throughout the lower Paleozoic era before beginning a drawn-out decline to extinction when, during the Devonian, all trilobite orders except the Proetids died out. Trilobites disappeared in the mass extinction at the end of the Permian about 252 million years ago. The trilobites were among the most successful of all early animals, existing in oceans for almost 300 million years.

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.

Phacopida order of arthropods (fossil)

Phacopida ("lens-face") is an order of trilobite that lived from the Late Cambrian to the Late Devonian. It is made up of a morphologically diverse group of related suborders.

Phacopina genus of arthropods (fossil)

The Phacopina comprise a suborder of the trilobite order Phacopida. Species belonging to the Phacopina lived from the Lower Ordovician (Tremadocian) through the end of the Upper Devonian (Famennian). The one unique feature that distinguishes Phacopina from all other trilobites are the very large, separately set lenses without a common cornea of the compound eye.

Phacopidae family of arthropods (fossil)

Phacopidae is a family of phacophid trilobites that ranges from the Lower Ordovician to the Upper Devonian, with representatives in all paleocontinents.

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

Greenops is a mid-sized Devonian trilobite of the order Phacopida, subfamily Asteropyginae. They are mainly reported from the mid-Devonian Hamilton Group of upstate New York and southwestern Ontario. A similar-looking trilobite from Morocco is often mis-labelled Greenops. Greenops had schizocroidal eyes, large genal spines and short, sharp spines at the tip of each segment of the pygidium ("tail"). Greenops lived in warm, fairly deep water. In the Hamilton Group of New York, they are found with Phacops, Dipleura and Bellacartwrightia, a trilobite that resembles Greenops but has much larger pygidial spines. In Ontario, they are found in the Widder Formation, which outcrops at Arkona, where they are, by far, the dominant trilobite.

Calymene genus of trilobites (fossil)

Calymene is a genus of trilobites in the order Phacopida that are found throughout North America, North Africa, and Europe in primarily Silurian outcrops. Calymene is closely related to Flexicalymene, and both genera are frequently found enrolled. Calymene trilobites are small, typically 2 cm in length. The cephalon is the widest part of the animal and the thorax usually has 13 segments.

<i>Chotecops</i> genus of trilobites

Chotecops is a genus of trilobites from the order Phacopida, suborder Phacopina, family Phacopidae. It was initially erected as a subgenus of Phacops but some later authors thought it distinctive enough to raise its status. Species assigned to this genus occur between the Emsian and the Famennian. Chotecops is the most abundant trilobite in the Hunsrück Slate and due to the excellent preservation, often soft tissue such as antennae and legs have been preserved as a thin sheet of pyrite.

<i>Eldredgeops</i> genus of trilobites

Eldredgeops is a genus of trilobites in the order Phacopida, family Phacopidae, known from the late Middle and earliest Upper Devonian of Morocco and the USA.

<i>Drotops</i> genus of trilobites

Drotops is a genus of trilobites from the order Phacopida, family Phacopidae that lived during the Eifelian of the Middle Devonian. It was described by Struve in 1990 under type species Drotops megalomanicus. Their fossils are found in present day Morocco, specifically the Maïder Region located South West of Erfoud.

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

Erbenochile is a genus of spinose phacopid trilobite, of the family Acastidae, found in Lower to Middle Devonian age rocks from Algeria and Morocco. Originally described from an isolated pygidium, the first complete articulated specimen of E. erbeni revealed the presence of extraordinarily tall eyes:

"Straight-sided towers of lenses... with [up to] 18 lenses in a vertical file"

Jeffersonville Limestone

The Devonian Jeffersonville Limestone is a mapped bedrock unit in Indiana and Kentucky. It is highly fossiliferous.

Fossils of many types of water-dwelling animals from the Devonian period are found in deposits in the U.S. state of Michigan. Among the more commonly occurring specimens are bryozoans, corals, crinoids, and brachiopods. Also found, but not so commonly, are armored fish called placoderms, snails, sharks, stromatolites, trilobites and blastoids.

Paleontology in Illinois

Paleontology in Illinois refers to paleontological research occurring within or conducted by people from the U.S. state of Illinois. Scientists have found that Illinois was covered by a sea during the Paleozoic Era. Over time this sea was inhabited by animals including brachiopods, clams, corals, crinoids, sea snails, sponges, and trilobites.

Paleontology in Pennsylvania

Paleontology in Pennsylvania refers to paleontological research occurring within or conducted by people from the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. The geologic column of Pennsylvania spans from the Precambrian to Quaternary. During the early part of the Paleozoic, Pennsylvania was submerged by a warm, shallow sea. This sea would come to be inhabited by creatures like brachiopods, bryozoans, crinoids, graptolites, and trilobites. The armored fish Palaeaspis appeared during the Silurian. By the Devonian the state was home to other kinds of fishes. On land, some of the world's oldest tetrapods left behind footprints that would later fossilize. Some of Pennsylvania's most important fossil finds were made in the state's Devonian rocks. Carboniferous Pennsylvania was a swampy environment covered by a wide variety of plants. The latter half of the period was called the Pennsylvanian in honor of the state's rich contemporary rock record. By the end of the Paleozoic the state was no longer so swampy. During the Mesozoic the state was home to dinosaurs and other kinds of reptiles, who left behind fossil footprints. Little is known about the early to mid Cenozoic of Pennsylvania, but during the Ice Age it seemed to have a tundra-like environment. Local Delaware people used to smoke mixtures of fossil bones and tobacco for good luck and to have wishes granted. By the late 1800s Pennsylvania was the site of formal scientific investigation of fossils. Around this time Hadrosaurus foulkii of neighboring New Jersey became the first mounted dinosaur skeleton exhibit at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. The Devonian trilobite Phacops rana is the Pennsylvania state fossil.

Paleontology in Wisconsin

Paleontology in Wisconsin refers to paleontological research occurring within or conducted by people from the U.S. state of Wisconsin. The state has fossils from the Precambrian, much of the Paleozoic, and the later part of the Cenozoic. Most of the Paleozoic rocks are marine in origin. Because of the thick blanket of Pleistocene glacial sediment that covers the rock strata in most of the state, Wisconsin’s fossil record is relatively sparse. In spite of this, certain Wisconsin paleontological occurrences provide exceptional insights concerning the history and diversity of life on Earth.

The geology of Morocco formed beginning up to two billion years ago, in the Paleoproterozoic and potentially even earlier. It was affected by the Pan-African orogeny, although the later Hercynian orogeny produced fewer changes and left the Maseta Domain, a large area of remnant Paleozoic massifs. During the Paleozoic, extensive sedimentary deposits preserved marine fossils. Throughout the Mesozoic, the rifting apart of Pangaea to form the Atlantic Ocean created basins and fault blocks, which were blanketed in terrestrial and marine sediments—particularly as a major marine transgression flooded much of the region. In the Cenozoic, a microcontinent covered in sedimentary rocks from the Triassic and Cretaceous collided with northern Morocco, forming the Rif region. Morocco has extensive phosphate and salt reserves, as well as resources such as lead, zinc, copper and silver.

Vireux-Molhain National Nature Reserve

The Vireux-Molhain national nature reserve (RNN104) is a national nature reserve of geological and paleontological interest. It is located in the Pointe de Givet, department of Ardennes, on the border between France and Belgium. It covers an area of 1.82 ha. The site is known as Customs Wall as it is near an old customs post. This outcrop of Middle Devonian shale is notable for the quantity and good state of preservation of its fossils. Trilobites are well-represented.


  1. Burton, C.J.; Eldredge, N. (1974). "Two new subspecies of Phacops rana (Trilobita) from the Middle Devonian of North-West Africa" (PDF). Palaeontology. 17 (2): 349. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-11-04.
  2. Harper, John (2013). "Reflections on Phacops rana (Green), Pennsylvania's State Fossil" (PDF). Pennsylvania Geology. 43 (2): 3–10.