Abstract

During the Cambrian and Ordovician trilobites belonging to a variety of clades developed distinctive inflated bulbs on the preglabellar field. We make the case that these bulbs were brood pouches, which were employed for retaining and protecting larva trilobites in order to ensure a higher rate of survivorship. Living arthropods of several classes develop comparable spherical structures--for example the domicilium of certain ostracodes. Living limuloids, likely the trilobites' closest living relatives, carry large and yolky eggs in an homologous, prelabral site. There are some trilobite examples where "species pairs" found in the same fossil sites appear to differ only in the presence or absence of the preglabellar bulb. These may represent the female and male of a single species, respectively. If so, this is the first well-supported case of sexual dimorphism in trilobites. Some more problematic examples are discussed, where alleged dimorphism would have to be more extreme.

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