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Ordovician Trilobites of Southern Ontario, Canada and the Surrounding Region

Ordovician Trilobites of Southern Ontario, Canada and the Surrounding Region

  • £2100

by Phillip A. Isotalo (foreword by David M. Rudkin, Royal Ontario Museum)

Siri Scientific Press (2015) 978-0-9929979-1-5 RRP £21.00

224 pp, 240 x 165 mm, soft cover, 165 colour illustrations, mainly photographs

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Newsletter of the Paleontological Society (Priscum, Fall 2017, page 21): "The book is written to accommodate non-academics, but is still scholarly and fully referenced. With its reasonable price, the book will be a must-have for trilobite aficionados.... The meat of the book is the trilobite descriptions and pictures, fully accounting for half of the pages. Nearly every species of Ordovician trilobite from the region is given its own section with photographs and a brief discussion of its distribution and important morphological features. ... Overall, this is an outstanding work with illustrations that will please all audiences as well as an attention to references that please pedants like myself."

American Museum of Natural History Trilobite Website (2015, abridged). "... pushes previous boundaries by presenting more detailed photographs of far more aesthetic specimens while significantly updating the known database regarding formations, stratigraphy and fossil distribution. With an entertaining and informative foreword penned by David Rudkin of the ROM, Ordovician Trilobites Of Southern Ontario, Canada and the Surrounding Region tackles its chosen subject with intelligence, insight and at times a surprising degree of ingenuity. … a fantastic and much-needed reference volume for both the avid collector and the professional paleontologist."

Newsletter of the Palaeontological Association (No. 90, pages 107-108) "This is an enchanting book, and a welcome addition to any trilobite-lover’s library. It is basically an illustrated guide to the trilobites of a classic region of North America, with all the photographs in colour, some being full-page. ... It is now 36 years since the publication of Rolf Ludvigsen’s admirable Fossils of Ontario Part 1: The Trilobites, and as David Rudkin notes in his Foreword, many additional species from Ontario have been collected, described and illustrated since then.  The time was ripe for another book on the trilobite treasure-trove of southern Ontario, and this fulfils all expectations. Both amateur palaeontologists and professionals less familiar with the region can benefit greatly from it. It is nicely written and clearly presented."

From the back cover
Trilobites are fascinating creatures that ruled the early Paleozoic seas. These arthropods first appeared in the Cambrian Period, lived for hundreds of millions of years and went extinct at the end of the Permian Period, around 251 million years ago, before the arrival of the dinosaurs. Trilobites lived in a variety of marine environments ranging from shallow tropical seas to the depths of polar oceans and were distributed globally.

The remains of trilobites are ubiquitous in Paleozoic Era sedimentary rocks of North America and are found throughout Southern Ontario, Canada, with trilobites also being found in neighboring Quebec and New York State. This book illustrates some of the best preserved Ordovician trilobites of the region and provides a thorough description of the trilobite species found in Southern Ontario.

This book will appeal to anyone interested in Paleozoic fossils and trilobites, from academics to beginning amateur and seasoned collectors. Ordovician Trilobites of Southern Ontario, Canada and the Surrounding Region is a comprehensive regional guide that explores an important part of Canada’s early geological history.

Foreword by Dr David Rudkin (Royal Ontario Museum)
If you are holding this book and reading this foreword, then there’s a very good chance I’m about to preach to the converted. You have already caught the ‘bug’ and number yourself among the small but dedicated faction of the global fossil fraternity known as trilobitophiles – those dedicated to the passionate pursuit of trilobites: three-lobed, armoured arthropodan denizens of the Paleozoic seas. You can stop reading this now and turn directly to the good stuff on the pages that follow. If, on the other hand, you are unsure of your commitment to the cause, please stick with me for another few paragraphs. I think I can coax you into the fold.

We will never know the identity of the very first collector of an Ordovician trilobite in Ontario, but I would not be at all surprised if she or he was among the earliest Paleo-Indian hunter-gatherers to inhabit the bleak, glacially scoured landscape of this part of the world. Imagine the scene on a windswept raised beach, some 10,500 years ago, as the curious individual plucked an oddly patterned piece of shale from the stony berm. Turning the small fan-shaped pygidium of Pseudogygites latimarginatus over and over in their hands, they must have wondered at its meaning, unable to make the connection with a long extinct sea creature of unfathomable age.

This is an entirely hypothetical scenario of course – we don’t yet have any local archaeological evidence to corroborate my imagined post-glacial drama – but I’ve witnessed its present day analogue play out as one of my own very young children brushed their finger tips in wonder over the raised pygidial ribs of a Pseudogygites tail picked up along the shore of Nottawasaga Bay, Ontario. Trilobite fossils have indeed been found in archaeological sites of various ages and cultural contexts elsewhere in Canada and around the world, so we do know they have the power to capture the imagination.

Let’s bring this back to Ontario and shift from the realm of speculation to the well-documented historical record. It is August of the year 1820. The scene is St. Joseph Island in the northwestern reaches of Lake Huron. The person of note is Dr. John Jeremiah Bigsby, assistant secretary to the International Boundary Commission surveying the future border between the US and British North America. That summer, Bigsby’s geological interests drew him to seek out and collect a number of fossils from limestone outcrops on St. Joseph Island. Among those subsequently illustrated by Charles Stokes (in Bigsby’s published account of 1824) was a striking form Stokes described as Asaphus platycephalus. This, as it turns out, was not only the first Ordovician trilobite from Ontario to be named, but the first Canadian trilobite of any age to receive a formal taxonomic designation!

Much has transpired in the study of Ontario trilobites in the nearly 200 years following Bigsby’s discovery and the publication of what we now refer to as Isotelus platycephalus (Stokes, 1824) (Darby DG and Stumm EC, 1965). Many additional species have been collected from Ontario Ordovician strata, described, illustrated, named and renamed, and this growing body of knowledge has benefited from the contributions of professional and amateur collectors alike. Yet so much remains to be done.

Fortunately, the enduring allure of the trilobite remains strong in Ontario – the proof is in your hands in this splendid guide. The author, Phillip Isotalo, is an accomplished amateur palaeontologist. He is an avid and knowledgeable collector of trilobite fossils, especially in the field, with a particular passion for the diverse and often well-preserved examples that occur in the Ordovician strata underlying southeastern and central Ontario, and adjacent parts of Quebec and New York State. Fortunately for the rest of us, Phil has chosen to share his passion and knowledge in the form of this superbly illustrated and painstakingly researched book. He has drawn inspiration for this labour of love from numerous sources, including the now long out-of-print Fossils of Ontario - Part 1: The Trilobites by Rolf Ludvigsen, published by the Royal Ontario Museum in 1979. In the 35 years following that first appearance of the much-admired ‘green book’, amateur trilobite collectors like Phil have been actively contributing to a growing database of new occurrences and expanding the number of species known from the Ordovician rocks of Ontario. It’s a phenomenon to which I have been a delighted witness, and the trilobite collections held at the Royal Ontario Museum have benefited greatly from generous donations of specimens and information by the community of dedicated local trilobitophiles.

Surely that is more than enough background to tempt you to view the treasures to be found on the pages that follow. Flip ahead and see for yourself the astounding diversity of trilobites whose remains lie entombed in rocky vestiges of the long-vanished Ordovician seas that once covered this little corner of the world. I have no doubt that this volume will delight die-hard trilobite enthusiasts and inspire new ones in much the same way. Enjoy the book – catch the ‘bug’!

Dave Rudkin
Assistant Curator of Invertebrate Palaeontology
Royal Ontario Museum
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
November 6, 2014

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