Category Archives: Fossil Hunting

Is There a Living Trilobite? A Look at Some Modern Imposters

moroccan trilobites

First appearing in the early Cambrian Period (some 542 million years ago), the now-extinct Trilobite is one of the earliest-known arthropods. The name, meaning ‘three lobes’, is aptly descriptive of the marine animal’s distinctive 3-lobed, 3-segmented body type.

Does a Living Trilobite Exist Today?

Science tells us that Trilobites made their last appearance around 251 million years ago. For reference, this period was well before the age of the dinosaurs.

However, among the general public, there remains some confusion about whether or not Trilobite’s are in fact still living and thriving in marine environments. And this confusion is not without merit. There are, in fact, several ‘imposters’ that look eerily similar to the Trilobite, leading some to think that they are still among us.

Want a little piece of trilobite history? Check out selection of authentic trilobite fossils

For example, aquatic insects (such as water pennies), segmented mollusks (chitons), and a myriad of marine crustaceans (usually isopods), bear resemblance to creatures of times long past.

In this guide, we’ll explore what makes people look twice at these creatures, sometimes mistaking them for the extinct Trilobite.

1. The Water Penny

Of the Phylum Arthropoda (Class Insecta), water pennies are occasionally reported as the potential find of the century: an actual living descendant of the Trilobite.

However, upon closer inspection, these aquatic larvae of the Mataeopsephus (a type of beetle), quickly reveal it’s true nature. A simple flip of the creature on its back reveals several pairs of limbs typical of insects.

Why all the fuss over the water penny? It is postulated that there could be potential for the Trilobite to have survived and evolved over 100+ million years, finding their way into freshwater habitats. However, this is an assertion that currently has no scientific merit beyond conjecture.

2. Chitons

Of the Phylum Mollusca (Class Amphinerura), Chitons represent a common inhabitant of intertidal zones around the world.

What makes these a sometimes-mistaken candidate as a Trilobite? Chitons are notable for their distinctive armored plate outer shell (initially resembling segments similar to those of an arthropod).

Similar to the Water Penny, an inspection of its underside reveals its true nature, displaying a broad, muscular foot (similar to a snail). This is in stark contrast to the multiple jointed walking legs of a Trilobite.

3. Isopods

These hard-shelled, segmented, multi-legged creatures are a pretty convincing trilobite imposter. Under the Phylum Arthropoda (Class Crustacea), these marine dwellers are one of the closest resembling creatures to the Trilobite. This is especially true of the species Serolis Trilobitoides (the name even has ‘trilobit’ in it!).   

4. Tadpole Shrimps

Of the Class Crustacea (Order Notostraca), this group of branchiopod crustaceans is sometimes referred to as “living fossils”, and with good reason. Featuring a cephalon-like head shield and multiple body segments, we can see how they are quite reminiscent of the trilobites of the past.

Exciting, but Not as Exciting as a Living Trilobite

Unfortunately, trilobites have gone the way of the dinosaurs, having become extinct some 251 million years ago. Despite the hope of some scientists, to date, there have been no confirmed discoveries of living trilobites during the time of man. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t still enjoy these ancient creatures in fossilized form, in books, and in museums.

So the next time you think you may have made the discovery of a lifetime, don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

Learn More About Trilobites


Dinosaur Fossil Hunting

Best Places in the US to Find Dinosaur Fossils

Did you know that the USA has the biggest variety of dinosaur remains in the world? Scientists and archaeologists are still regularly unearthing complete skeletons all across the Western and South-western parts of the country, and the best part is, you can join them!

So if youre feeling like channeling your inner Jeff Goldblum and heading out on a dig, heres a list of some of the very best hot spots to find a dinosaur fossil in the US.

The North Dakota Heritage Center, Bismarck, North Dakota.

This 67 million-year-old site sits inside the famous Hell Creek Formation. Back in the Mesozoic era, the area was a huge stretch of shoreline, making it a pretty unique location to study the differences between inland and coastal dwelling animals and foliage of that period.

Today the North Dakota Geological Survey invites members of the public to join them on full day digs to help unearth the many remains that still lie under the surface. Everyone can get involved, from beginners to more seasoned fossil hunters. The most commonly found bones here in Bismarck are from species like the Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus, Edmontosaurus, Dromeosaurus, Didelphodon, and the Brachychampsa.

PaleoAdventures, Belle Fourche, South Dakota

This privately owned dig site in the Black Hills of South Dakota is also part of the Hell Creek Formation and sees visitors from around the world who come to unearth the bounty of dinosaur fossils.

The site is run by paleontologist Walter W. Stein who has been digging the area for over 20 years. He even has a dinosaur named after him, the  Dakotaraptor Steini, which was discovered in 2015 by a team from Palm Beach Museum of Natural History.

One of the coolest things about digging here at PaleoAdventures is that you can take home some of your discoveries, like Triceratops teeth, plant fossils and other more commonly found objects. If you find anything truly remarkable, Stein will hold it back to be studied by experts in universities and museums across the country.

These super popular digs last a whole day, from 8 am to 8 pm, and they tend to book up quickly. If you’re lucky, you might discover fossils from species like the Anzu, otherwise known as ‘The Chicken From Hell’, the Dakotaraptor, known as ‘Silky’ and  Ankylosaurus, the ‘Armed Lizard Dinosaur”.

The Two Medicine Dinosaur Center, Bynum, Montana

There are various types of digs you can get involved with here – from simple half-day sessions, perfect for beginners who want a little insight into the process of unearthing dinosaur fossils, to full-day sessions, all the way up to a 6-day camping and digging expeditions up by the Canadian border.

The longer expeditions take place in the Judith River Formation, where you can help archaeologists on their mission to uncover, reassemble and preserve two full dinosaurs.

The shorter day-long sessions usually involve a training session at an inactive/mock-up dig site in the morning, followed by a fully hands-on dig in the afternoon to find yet undiscovered remains.

The Wyoming Dinosaur Center, Thermopolis, Wyoming

The Wyoming Dinosaur Center is in the heart of the Morrison Formation which is thought to be around 155 million years old.  The center opened in the mid-’90s, and since then over 10,000 bones have been discovered here, mainly from Diplodocus, Camarasaurus, and Apatosaurus dinosaurs.

There are half-day and full-day packages available, but if you’re keen to get the most out of your dig, shoot for the full-day option, as you’ll also get a guided tour of the center’s museum. If you’re lucky enough to find a dinosaur fossil, you’ll be added to their official register and hall of fame, and the item will be stored on-site for further research.

Gear Up and Get Ready to Find Dinosaur Fossils Across the USA

These are just a few of the places across the US where you can practice some hands-on dinosaur fossil discovery. The best sites for finding fossils are usually in the desert, where there arent many trees and other types of plant matter to get in the way of a dig. Most sites that offer great digging potential are made up of sedimentary rock, which does an awesome job of preserving fossils of all types.

Dinosaur fossils have been found in 35 states across the country; not just in the most famous fossil sites of the West and Southwest, but also way up in Alaska and as far south as Alabama. You never know what you might find, even in your own backyard.

Elrathia Kingii

Digging Trilobites At U-Dig Fossils

How’d you like to split an ordinary-looking gray rock and find this beauty? You can at

U-Dig  Fossils near Delta, Utah in western Millard County.

The quarry is literally acres of Wheeler Shale, laid down during the Cambrian Period approximately 507 million years ago. Trilobites were prolific inhabitants of the Cambrian seas that covered the planet. This species, the Elrathia Kingii, shows up between layers of the shale.

When you arrive at the quarry, you’re handed a bucket and a hammer to help gently tap on the shale to split the layers. It’s fairly common to find pieces of incomplete trilobites. On the day we visited, several really nice whole trilobites were found…but not by us.

To be fair, we didn’t spend much time splitting rocks. We arrived at the quarry late in the morning on what was a pretty hot summer day. We recommend you keep an eye on the temperatures, because this is the desert and by late morning temperatures can be brutal.

The Crapo family runs the U-Dig Fossil Site. We met and worked with the patriarch of the family in 2005. For the next 12 years of so, Loy Crapo, whose business is called The Bug House, supplied us with a variety of Elrathia kingii fossils of various sizes and levels of completion. After Loy passed away, his widow, sons, daughters, and their families continued the Bug House business and do so until today.

The Bug House isn’t just about trilobites, in fact, their bigger business is in two beautiful crystal specimens: Septarian nodules and Dugway geodes.

We spoke with Shayne Crapo who runs the U-Dig Fossils quarry. Shayne recommends visitors:

It is adviseable to bring a pair of gloves (garden gloves are sufficient), safety glasses and a light jacket in the event there is a change of weather. Remember to bring plenty of food and water. Please bring a container to transport your fossils home. It is always good to bring a spare tire as well.

We will be open 6 days closed on Sunday, hours of operation 9 AM – 6 PM. “Closed on Sundays and 4 July, we are open on most holidays except for Sundays”. Please feel free to call to make sure what days we are open, and check the calendar just in case. If you get there early just wait for us at the gate and we will be there promptly.

Business hours are Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Please arrive at the quarry before 4 PM because the quarry will close early if no one is present at 4 p.m. Please do not attempt to enter the quarry when it is closed.

Directions– The U-DIG Fossils Quarry is located approximately 52 miles west of Delta, Utah, near Antelope Springs. It is approximately 90 miles from Provo to Delta. It is approximately 130 miles from Salt Lake City to Delta.

Once in Delta, first travel 32 miles west on Highway 6 / 50. At the Long Ridge Reservoir sign between mile markers 56-57, turn right. There is a U-DIG Fossils sign at this intersection. Then travel 20 miles down a well-maintained gravel road to reach the U-DIG Quarry. Any type of vehicle can travel this gravel road.


Elrathia kingii Trilobite

Hours-hours of operation 9 AM – 6 PM. “Closed on Sundays and 4 July, we are open on most holidays except for Sundays”. Please feel free to call to make sure what days we are open

Season-1 April – 30 Oct


Morocco at Last!

We were nearly drip-dried after standing in the beating rain to get onto our aircraft in London. The dry, early afternoon heat was a welcome completion to the process. Met by our Italian host for our time in Marrakech, he wove his way to the center of the old city and the oldest Medina in Morocco. He told us the huge mosque that we could see (and hear) from our Riad, was the third most important mosque to the Muslim faithful.

Our car was met by a Moroccan “bell boy” who carried our suitcases down ancient, narrow streets. We both felt a little nervous about what might lay behind the door. We needn’t have been. The Riad, which means a building with a central garden courtyard, was stunning. The walls were decorated with fossils, and our excitement for the hunting to come began to build. Our hostess served us the first of many daily teas. No matter when you sit down to a meal, or even when you just meet a friend, tea will always accompany the moment.

Our room looked out on the Riad below. Everywhere were special touches of Moroccan beauty and special effort was made to enhance the fragrance of the air with warm oils and rose petals. Our first day in Morocco was filled with sights and sounds never before experienced.

OMG! It’s a REAL (fossil) Glyptodont!

A few years back, in my ongoing work to share prehistory with excited kids, I created a Montessori material (LINK) that included a Doedicurus, an herbivore that lived during the Pleistocene epoch.

A mammal with a carapace (like a turtle) and a spiked knot at the end of its tail (like the Ankylosaurus that lived during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods), this creature wowed me when I discovered it among a new set of prehistoric toys. It was such an odd mix of body parts that seemed to come out of nowhere; impossible to believe that such a creature could have existed. After all, when fossils are found it is no sure thing that all the parts present even belong to the same animal. It just seemed too odd, too remarkable to believe, even after google searches confirmed their historical reality.

But this article is not about the oddly characterized creature. You can find that with a quick google search. Rather, my goal is to share the amazement and joy of a modern-day travel discovery.

The fossilicious team recently visited the Galerie de paléontologie et d’anatomie comparée (LINK This museum alone will call us back to Paris, a city we have just begun to discover and adore! Not your typical museum of natural history, this truly is a place of comparative anatomy. If there is another museum on the planet that has such a voluminous collection on display, I’d truly love to hear about it! (write me at claudiamann “at”

Paris was actually a “side-trip” on our way home from our primary destination: Morocco. We had dreamed of visiting the fossil beds where so many of our collections originate for years and, at last, the trip was becoming a reality. But the Galerie de paléontologie et d’anatomie comparée had been just a bit further down on our bucket list, so why not add just a couple of days as we made our way back to the USA?

Cases of bones that greeted us upon entry let us know that we were in a very special place. With every step deeper into the museum, we realized that we couldn’t possibly “take in” this museum in the time we had. So we tried desperately to focus on an overview of what was there, vowing to return as soon as our pocketbooks would allow.

It was on the second floor, the Paleontologie collection, where I spotted my first glyptodont. I stood face-to-face with the bones and tightly woven scutes of the carapace: evidence that these creatures truly roamed the earth once upon a Pleistocene time. For this lover of prehistory and paleobiology, the thrill rivaled the moment, having successfully split open a chuck of Florissant fossil bed rock, I uncovered a complete Eocene leaf. In other words, it was magnificent!

The rush that comes with this kind of discovery should not be underestimated. Books inspire us, develop a sense of wonder, and lead us to investigate our passions. Standing next to the real thing…well, that’s an emotion for which books can only prime us. 

Fossil-Hunting in Morocco

Hello Friends and Fossil-lovers!

It seems like the California move that happened in 2014, not only put this blog on hold, but put it completely out of my memory. Thanks to a recent revelation and an upcoming fossil excursion, it’s time to resurrect it.

For those of you who are new to fossilicious…WELCOME! and a brief introduction: we, Doug and Claudia Mann, started fossilicious in 2005. It was an opportunity to share our Montessori cosmic education excitement with a broader community of Montessori teachers. 10 years, 3 websites, and lots of Montessori study materials later, we are finally making our first pilgrimage to the home-sites of many of our collection fossils in the Atlas mountains near Erfoud, Morocco. Along the way, we’ll visit other geolgoically interesting sites to gain a more intimate experience with our home planet’s mysteries and fascinations.

We hope you’ll enjoy whatever is to come along this journey that will include stops in Iceland, the UK, Spain, and just a brief moment in France. Some of what we plan to share will be aimed at the young students where Claudia works: LePort Montessori in Encinitas, CA.  The children have a map to follow along at home.

We also welcome your comments (and suggestions of good sites if you have them) as we share the fun.