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Temporal range: Late Ordovician-Late Devonian
~457–360 Ma
Phacops rana crassituberculata lateral.jpg
Phacops rana, 51 mm,↑lateral, ↓dorsal
Phacops rana crassituberulata dorsal.jpg
Scientific classification

Emmrich, 1839
Type species
Calymene latifrons
Bronn, 1825

and see text

  • Portlockia
  • Somatrikelon
  • Somatrikopon

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 Early until the very end of the Devonian,[2] with a broader time range described from the Late Ordovician.[3] It was a rounded animal, with a globose head and large eyes, and probably fed on detritus.[4] Phacops is often found rolled up, a biological defense mechanism that is widespread among smaller trilobites but further perfected in this genus.[4]


Like in all sighted Phacopina, the eyes of Phacops are compounded of very large, separately set lenses without a common cornea (so called schizochroal eyes), and like almost all other Phacopina, the articulate mid-length part of the body (or thorax) in Phacops has 11 segments.

The central raised area (or glabella) of the headshield (or cephalon) is moderately to strongly inflated near to its front, more or less flattened on the top, falling vertically to or slightly overhanging the border furrow. Up to three lateral furrows may be discernable on the glabella behind the utterly dominating frontal lobe. From the back there is a very distinct occipital ring, and in front of that a distinct preoccipital ring which is weakly divided into a strongly convex central lobe and weakly convex lateral lobes. The large to medium size eyes have a crescent shaped outline, and are elevated high above the cheeks. The steep visual surface is kidney shaped. The back corners of the cephalon (or genal angles) are acutely to bluntly rounded, but a genal spine is lacking in adults. In the ventral surface of the seam (or doublure) is in the frontal half of the cephalon a continuous furrow, delineated by ridges, and with notches laterally. This so-called vindicular furrow serves to lock the rim of the tailshield to the headshield when the trilobite is enrolled.

The axial rings of the thorax do not have convex lateral axial nodes on its outer surface. The tailshield (or pygidium) is well segmented. The pygidial axis has 9 to 11 rings, and the pleural areas to the sides have 5 to 8 pairs of recognizable ribs. Furrows between the ribs are deep, those that divide each rib in frontal and rear bands are very shallow, and the frontal bands are widest. The surface of the exoskeleton is covered in tubercles.[5]


Reconstruction of Phacops with a speculative, cryptic "Rorschach" pattern based on the proposed ability to camouflage.

There are specimens known of Phacops rana with many irregular black spots. Because similar spots in a specimen of Greenops boothi from the same site are arranged in rows, it may be assumed that they are original and not caused by the fossilisation process. The spots are irregular and have spurs branching outwardly, similar to the melanophores in many extant animals. In one specimen, the black spots are much larger than in another one. It is quite conceivable that changing the size of the melanophores enabled Phacops rana to camouflage itself in different environments.[6]


Enrolled P. rana from the Mahantango Formation, Pennsylvania

The concept of many fossil taxa has been tightened over time, including Phacops. As a result, Boeckops, Chotecops, Paciphacops, Prokops and Viaphacops have been erected as subgenera of Phacops, and are now widely regarded as genera in their own right.[7] Most recent, it was considered that some North-American and North-African species on the one hand and European species on the other hand differ sufficiently from each other to be assigned to separate genera. As the type species is the European P. latifrons, the North-American species are now called Eldredgeops. However, the previous assigned species, like Phacops rana, are still widely used among fossil collectors. Eldredgeops has a raised ridge along the ventral margin of the cephalon, the glabella is more inflated, the lateral parts of the preoccipital ring are not round but rectangular, the palpebral area and palpebral lobe are larger than in P. latifrons, and there is no fold right behind the posterior vertical row of lenses, nor an isolated raised area just below the lenses. Not all of these characters may differentiate between Eldredgeops and other Phacops species however.[8]

During the Eifelian in the present-day Belgian Ardennes, several Phacops species developed from each other, the oldest being P. imitator, followed by P. fragosus, then P. latifrons and finally P. sartenaeri. These species show a decrease in the number of lenses, which is a more widespread and recurring trend in many Phacopinae.[9]

Fossils of Phacops salteri have been found in the trilobite-rich Late Emsian to Early Givetian Floresta Formation of the Altiplano Cundiboyacense, Colombia.[10]


Phacops currently contains the following species:

Species previously assigned to Phacops[edit]

A number of species previously assigned to the genus Phacops have since been transferred to other genera:[1][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22]


  1. ^ a b Moore, R.C. (1959). Arthropoda I - Arthropoda General Features, Proarthropoda, Euarthropoda General Features, Trilobitomorpha. Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology. Part O. Boulder, Colorado/Lawrence, Kansas: Geological Society of America & University of Kansas Press. pp. 1–560. ISBN 978-0-8137-3015-8.
  2. ^ Ivo Chlupáč (1973). "The distribution of phacopid trilobites in space and time" (PDF). Fossils and Strata. 4: 399–408.
  3. ^ Phacops at
  4. ^ a b David L. Bruton & Winfried Haas (2001). Philip D. Lane, Derek J. Siveter & Richard A. Fortey, ed. Trilobites and their Relatives: Contributions from the Third International Conference, Making Phacops come alive. Special Papers in Palaeontology. 70. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 331–348. ISBN 978-0-901702-81-4.
  5. ^ Linliang Yuan; Liwen Xiang (1997). "Trilobite Fauna at the Devonian-Carboniferous boundary in South China (S-Guizhou and N-Guangxi)" (PDF). Special Publication of the National Museum of Natural Science. 8.
  6. ^ George C. Esker III (1968). "Color Markings in Phacops and Greenops from the Devonian of New York". Palaeontology. II (4): 498–499.
  7. ^ Chlupac, I. (1975). The distribution of phacopid trilobites in space and time. Fossils and Strata. pp. 399–408. ISBN 8 2-00-04963-9.
  8. ^ Gerry, K. "Phacops vs. Eldredgeops". The Fossil Forum.
  9. ^ a b c d e Viersen, van, A.P. (2004). "De mythe van Phacops latifrons [The Myth of Phacops latifrons]". Grondboor & Hamer. 3/4: 66–68.
  10. ^ Floresta Fauna at
  11. ^ Global Names Index. "Repository "Index to Organism Names"". Retrieved 4 November 2013.
  12. ^ a b Osmolska, H. (1953). "Famennian Phacopidae from the Holy Cross Mountains (Poland)" (PDF). Acta Palaeontologica Polonica. 3 (2).
  13. ^ Eldredge, N. (1972). "Systematics and evolution of Phacops rana (Green, 1832) and Phacops iowensis Delo, 1935 (Trilobita) from the Middle Devonian of North America". Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History. 147 (article 2): 45–114. hdl:2246/1095.
  14. ^ Shergold, J.H. (1966). "A revision of Acaste downingiae (Murchison) and related trilobites" (PDF). Palaeontology. 9 (2): 183–207. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-16.
  15. ^ Crônier, C. (2003). "Systematic relationships of the blind phacopine trilobite Trimerocephalus, with a new species from Causses−et−Veyran, Montagne Noire" (PDF). Acta Palaeontologica Polonica. 48 (1): 55–70. Retrieved 4 November 2013.
  16. ^ "Acuticeps Kayser, 1889". Global Names Index. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
  17. ^ Ramskjöld, L.; Werdelin, L. (1991). "The phylogeny and evolution of some phacopid trilobites". Cladistics. 7: 29–74. doi:10.1111/j.1096-0031.1991.tb00021.x.
  18. ^ Corbacho, Joan (2011). "Trilobites from the Upper Ordovician of Bou Nemrou - El Kaid Errami (Morocco) [Trilobitas del Ordovícico Superior de Bou Nemrou - El Kaid Errami (Marruecos)]" (PDF). Batelleria. 16: 16–31. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-12-20.
  19. ^ Hansen, George P. (2009). Trilobites of Black Cat Mountain. iUniverse.
  20. ^ Andrew McRae. "Trilobites in Murchison's "Siluria"".
  21. ^ Crônier, Catherine; Feist, Raimond (2000). "Evolution et systématique du groupe Cryphops (Phacopinae, Trilobita) du Dévonien Supérieur" [Evolution and systematics of the Cryphops group (Phacopinae, Trilobita) from the Late Devonian]. Senckenbergiana Lethaea. 79 (2): 501–515. doi:10.1007/bf03043651.
  22. ^ Schoenemann, Brigitte; Clarkson, Euan N.K. (2013). "Discovery of some 400 million year-old sensory structures in the compound eyes of trilobites". Scientific Reports. 3 (1429): 1429. doi:10.1038/srep01429. PMC 3596982. PMID 23492459.

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Phacops at Wikimedia Commons