Science meets art: Tiny trilobite gets huge makeover

by Mary Caperton Morton
Thursday, December 14, 2017

At less than a centimeter in size, Agnostus pisiformis might not look like much, but a new series of larger-than-life sculptures is giving the arthropod its due as one of the most ubiquitous and recognizable Cambrian fossils.

By greatly enlarging Agnostus into three different sculptural models, paleontologist Mats Eriksson of Lund University in Sweden and Danish artist Esben Horn sought to highlight the importance of the tiny trilobite to paleontologists, who have long used fossils of the critter to date Cambrian fossil layers. Agnostus only lived during a short window of time about 500 million years ago, but its remains are found in abundance in sedimentary layers in Sweden, England and Russia. In some cases, even the finest details of soft tissues are preserved.

Horn crafted three 25-centimeter-long sculptures out of polyurethane resin: one showing the creature in an active swimming mode, one with a semi-open carapace and one showing it completely enrolled, as it is often found fossilized. “The sculptures have been greatly scaled up and show the animal’s complete anatomy down to the smallest detail, including all the extremities and antennae,” Eriksson said in a statement.

“Replicas such as these fulfill very important purposes as they can be used for research as well as teaching and outreach, allowing scientists and laymen alike to study minute, extinct organisms first-hand and up close,” the pair wrote in Earth-Science Reviews.

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