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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


July 17 and 24th: A Class In Cosmic Education

Montessori’s Cosmic Education and the story of the universe grabbed hold of my heart and never let go. Learning to inspire curiosity, wonder and connection to our celestial home has been my quest throughout 30 years of teaching. This week and next, I’ll be sharing some of my ideas and strategies in two 90-minute sessions of online and hands-on learning.

I opened a book of poetry written by a class of elementary II students I worked with in 1999. Their words reflected the intertwining of academic learning, going out, and following their passions.

He was a soldier as he planned his attack.
His eyes flashed like lightning
While he wept for his prey.
(C.H., 11 years)

My memory of the year has faded too greatly to remember the details of weaving the threads of biology, ecology, language, and math, but their poetry and the drawings that graced the pages of the book they’d created brought back the vivaciousness of those students. These were children who’d gone to the Grand Canyon in the spring and, upon returning, decided to build a model of the layers into our classroom. The poem’s authoris the same child who exclaimed with great excitement that they could use the clinometer to determine the height of their model, reflecting the way they had used the instrument to calculate the heights of the distant sides of the canyon. This “proof” of meaningful learning moved my soul then as it does now.

This week, I’ll be sharing ideas for Keeping Cosmic Education at the Heart of your Classroom. We’ll explore ways of thinking about your curriculum to knit together experiences in all the skills-based subjects as well as art, music, and practical life activities. We’ll consider the whole, distill it into parts, and return to the whole to give you a template for sharing your Montessori lessons in ways that develop elementary and secondary students into adults who see themselves within the context of the cosmic plan. I hope you’ll join me!

For information on attending follow this link: Cosmic Education Class

AMS Conference and Friendship

The Montessori Event in Washington DC was bigger than ever; AMS (the American Montessori Society) really did itself proud! As exhibitors, we often feel like we are limited in how much we get to enjoy all the offerings of the conference, but renewing friendships is always the best part of the conference anyway. This year we made time to socialize with several long-time friends, colleagues and “Montrepreneurs.”

Doug and Lori Karmazin first met more than 30 years ago at the College of New Rochelle, where they were students at the Center for Montessori Teacher Education/New York. This was long before either of them thought about developing their Montessori businesses, but their friendship and their businesses blossomed and endured!

Lori started Great Extensions in 1994 offering just a few materials. Now, along with the beautiful fabric mats and stamping materials, Lori has become known as the “dice lady” at theconferences, offering more than 50 different dice to be used in creative math and language activities. She has 6 pages of specialty dice listed on her website

Her beautiful materials have been in every classroom we’ve opened since the early 2000’s. The math mats make it easy for young students to complete math activities from basic counting, to simple operations to advanced operations in decimals. The math and language stamps help students record problems and are a wonderful bridge between manipulations of the concrete materials and abstract paper and pencil work.

You can visit Great Extensions at


Picking-up rocks…What’s THAT have to do with Cosmic Education?

Hey, that’s nice gneiss! Say it out loud: “nahys nahys”. Don’t believe me? Check it out at! Yes, these are beautiful specimens: Nice gneiss!

We headed out to Palm Springs to find it. Besides, Palm Springs is a super beautiful and relaxing spot for a quick getaway only a couple of hours from home! We knew that the wash we’d found not far from Palm Springs would be a good place to find the gneiss we needed for an upcoming project. Discovered in our efforts to walk the San Andreas fault line last year, we’d found all manner of cool rocks, especially nice gneiss. OK, I’ll stop!

It took a lot more work to find than we’d hoped; many of the beauties like these were too big for our project, but the walk was refreshing in the late afternoon as the desert sun dipped below the horizon and the cool breezes began to blow.

When asked, we often say we got into our business of rocks, minerals and fossils because we like to find ways to share our love for rocks with students. It’s part of our quest to promote Montessori Cosmic Education. But really, what does picking-up cool rocks have to do with that? This morning I got a sweet reminder.

A few weeks ago I picked up a book I’d read at the very beginning of my Montessori journey: The Universe is a Green Dragon, by Brian Swimme (© 1984. Bear and Company,  Inc. Santa Fe, NM) This story of the Universe and our place in it never fails to bring me back to the heart of why I do this work. Today’s passage delivered both renewed clarity and inspiration: “Our life and powers come forth through our response to allurement.”

Writing as the teacher Thomas, Swimme goes on to explain, “Pursue these interests further and you learn….how contemporary patterns of activities are shaped by history…You will carry within yourself the complexity of the world in a manner unimaginable to your previous self. You will know that you are not disconnected from the life of the world….You will learn the first glimmer of the profound manner in which humans bind together the entire social order through a heightened awareness.”

Swimme was referencing a connection different that my “allurement” to rocks, but in generalizing the context, I understood that my passion for understanding the earth and her history is my personal connection to the cosmos. Sharing this awareness through Cosmic Education is a bit of my cosmic task. This morning I am grateful for the passage, and the experience of nice gneiss, for the reminder.

It’s Vacation Time!


Know how you feel when your principal asks you to add materials to your curriculum? For some, it goes something like this: “UGH! REALLY? You want me to add to a curriculum I already can’t get through?”


I know this, because I’ve been a Montessori school leader for years and I’ve seen it on the faces of teachers both under my direction and as colleagues. I’m sure the expression has appeared on my face as well.


And it’s time for vacation already! Please don’t ask me to plan for next year!


I’m here to suggest that you plan that vacation with a vengeance! Go somewhere truly exciting, interesting, fun, and relaxing. Get into the place. Discover the undiscovered secrets waiting to be found. Eat some new cuisine. Buy some spices so you can enjoy it back home. Take photos…lots of them! Find exotic souvenirs and, of course, new clothes!


Then bring it all back to your students! Voila! That curriculum assignment? Done! Piece of cake! (perhaps literally!)


Since I’m a prehistory nerd… particularly a fossil-nerd, that’s just what I did recently. We took a trip to Morocco. I brought back fossils, cuisine to share, customs to practice, and tons of photos. Our young students loved the experiences I brought back from my time spent in deserts, exotic towns, fossil beds, and surprising museums. (Check out this article of the one we discovered in Paris.)


With a little creativity and some time upon your return, you’ll not only have that curriculum development all set, but you’ll get to relive your vacation memories until next summer comes around…when you can do it all over again!


PS-Want to see a few examples? Comming soon, some pics from what I brought back to share.

London Overload

Not knowing the real name of this place, it will be forever known as Shakespeare Park to us.

We knew we were country folk, but stepping off the plane into London Gatwick reaffirmed this in a giant way. After more than 90 mnutes of standing in a sea of humans, we were tense and irritable, only to be shoved onto an already too-full train to get into the city. It felt like breathing again to take a break in a tiny park opposite our lunch spot, The Shakespeare, where we enjoyued traditional Fish & Chips and Meat Pie.

Shakespeare's Garden...saved us from city overwhelm!

Shakespeare’s Garden…saved us from city overwhelm!

After checking into our Airbnb and filled with tradtiional English fare, we ventured out to see the nearby sights of Parliament and Big Ben.

Big Ben

Big Ben

We crossed the Westminster Bridge, the site of much sadness only two weeks before, and found every pillar blanketed with flowers and messages of love. Clearly the work of a few is having a huge impact on the many from all over the world. The groups of people stopping to view these expressions were of all nationalities with hundreds of languages exclaiming over the sentiments.20170403_124739

Leaping Into Vacation (March 31-April 2)

What a shock to the senses it was arriving in Iceland! Cold. Damp. Rugged terrain. Jagged volcanic mountains jutting up from the sea. Miles of rolling green hills. Lava fields flowing to the sea. Gushing water shooting vapor into the air. Boiling, bubbling pools filling the air with sulphurous mist. Monstrous glacial waterfalls. Frozen lakes, still covered with snow. Little did we know that beginning our vacation in Iceland would provide us with the separation and allowance to step out of our normal reality. It was a perfect beginning!



Pentagon_basalt20170330_193037 A perfectly-shaped volcanic basalt column

Making a Meaningful Fossil Collection

Collections of anything are a good thing in teacher-land. Collections lead kids to learn. My favorite things to collect are fossils, rocks and minerals. This morning, when I began to reorganize the special new “finds” from my recent trip to Tucson, I got to thinking about all the different ways a person could go about setting up a collection. Here are just a few ideas that may help you get started.


Lots of people have one favorite kind of fossil. If you want to take a look at what happens when you REALLY get into one type, just check out this website: Dr. Gon III must truly love trilobites. I’ve been visiting his website for years and I still haven’t discovered everything he has to teach about trilobites. I’ll be he has a great collection, too!


That’s just one way to get going on fossil collecting: choose your favorite fossil and begin to collect individual specimens that represent different species, time periods and locations. I have several trilobites in my collection and they represent both early specimens from the Ordovican in the Midwest USA and Devonian in Morocco. As I am able, there will be more sophisticated…and expensive…specimens to add to my collection, but in the meantime, I have a nice group of trilobites to demonstrate all that I’ve learned about this extinct creature.

As you become aware of the time periods in which your fossil lived, you might want to begin to collect a specimen from each of the time periods since life began to flourish on the Earth. Lately, I’ve enjoyed adding to my Time Line of Life Fossil collection with some unusual little guys.

I started my TLL (that’s short for Time Line of Life) collection with a stand-alone purchased fossil collection. My first one came from Ohio and the fossils were not very spectacular. But they got me started. Next I found a set that had 12 nice quality specimens and some general information cards. As I found more places to get really good fossils, I made my own 12-piece and 18-piece collections and now they are for sale here: The 18-piece collection is my favorite because it has a wide range of species and nearly every geologic period represented.

The thing is that once I set up the 18 specimens according to the geologic time scale, I wanted to add in specimens from the missing periods…like the Triassic or the Precambrian. I went searching for specimens from these time periods and I made some great finds.

A few years back, I found Triassic petrified wood from Madagascar. These were really cool because unlike a lot of petrified wood pieces, which are beautiful, but also look like lots of other “jasper-like” rocks, you can see the design of the tree bark.

I think I may be on to finding a new type of fossil to collect: stromatolites. Stromatolites are fossils formed by cyanobacteria. There are stromatolites that are so old they may have been responsible for changing the atmosphere into the oxygen-rich air we breath today. That’s an oversimplification, of course, but some of my more recent finds include the pale green stone called Butterstone that is 2.5 billion…that’s right, billion… years old and is known to have stromatolites in its layers. Besides the incredible color variations, the rock is naturally creamy in texture. It is a great little piece to fidget with because it feels so smooth and soft.


Then there’s the stromatolite that comes from South America. (Butterstone comes from Africa.) It is a completely different color: shades of dark brown, almost black, with bands of light brown. I especially like the carved balls and spheres. They are pretty heavy and the polish makes them feel really good in your hand. They’re pretty old, too: 2.2 billion years!stromatolite-sm-2-5

I have pieces in my collection that I found myself, a small collection of different kinds of brachiopods just because I like them, and a very small collection…almost too small to call it a collection…that contains parts of a crinoids: the holdfast that kept in tied to the ocean floor, a variety of different-sized stems and the crown or head from which the delicate fronds grew.

Of course, you don’t HAVE to organize your fossil collection in any way at all! You can just begin with a few small finds, mark them down with location, species and other pertinent info (you can find sample cards, here: and keep them on a stand or in a box.

It’s really simple…so get out there and get started!

A Rock Walk With Children

I love sharing my own love of rocks, minerals and fossils with kids, something callers to fossilicious already know! Today a caller asked about good ways to get started with a rock club. She had great ideas already: getting acquainted, choosing a good club name, and picking a favorite rock.

You don’t need to do much to get kids excited about rocks. Like my caller, most youngsters start collecting early. She couldn’t wait to show the collection she’d made 20 or 30 years ago when she was just 8.

One of my favorite “first” activities is a rock walk. I take kids to a place where there are lots of different choices: a dry creek bed or canyon is great. I ask the kids to pick up as many rocks as they can carry, with just one rule: You can only keep one of each type.

“Each type,” you say? As the kids pick up a rock, they compare it to those already collected. If it looks like any of the other rocks, a choice must be made: Keep the new one or save the old. By the end of your walk, kids will have one sample of rocks of all colors and textures.

Now take the fun indoors. First, hand each child an inexpensive magnifying glass (you can get one at and let them take a closer look. They’ll be surprised at how some of the rocks look waaay different through the looking glass.

Then you can have different teams of kids compare their collections. It can be fun to make it an “everybody wins” game where all kids get a tasty reward for every match.

And while the kids are playing these games, you can feel proud of having practiced the most important skill needed to be a great rock hound: observation.

After this, your kids will be ready to delve into the world of the rock cycle, igneous, sedimentary, metamorphic, minerals, crystals…you’ll have no end to things to do!

So thanks, K. for giving fossilicious a call today. Here’s to a great first club day…and many more to follow!