Abstract

A detailed morphometric approach based on size and on outline analyses has been used on an exceptionally well-preserved assemblage of silicified trilobite exuvia, recovered from a Late Devonian limestone from southeastern Morocco. The material comprises a series of late larval to postlarval growth stages belonging to a single phacopine species, Trimerocephalus lelievrei Cronier and Feist, 1997. Plurimodality of size distribution has allowed us to discriminate postlarval instars. Distinct dimensional classes of isolated parts are obtained using the intertooth distances on the posterior pygidial margin and the internotch distances in the cephalic vincular furrow, which are functionally linked during trilobite enrollment. Morphometric analysis of development permitted demonstration of progressive shape change in agreement with ontogenetic ordination and a comparison of the timing of size and shape changes. The main shape changes appear to occur early in development, and once the "adult" morphology is obtained, size increases significantly. The growth rate during ontogeny is estimated by analogy with extant deep-sea crustaceans. Exponential size increase resulting from constant duration of intermolt periods may be regarded as a life history strategy to compete in a nutrient-impoverished offshore environment. The particular phacopine mode of molting, which involves the opening of the neck joint after ankylosis of the facial sutures, occurred in Trimerocephalus lelievrei between the first two postlarval instars, later than in its ancestor. Trimerocephalus lelievrei occupies an intermediate position within the phacopine paedomorphocline as indicated by the delayed onset of ankylosis.

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