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Door 22: The rock music content of rocks


Inspired by Paul’s excellent blog post on ‘The Rock Content of Rock Music’ I wondered if any palaeontologists had named their fossil finds after musicians, and if so, what type of music did they favour?

After a quick, non-exhaustive search it turns out that yes, many a fossil mammal, reptile and invertebrate have been named after musicians. Out of these however,  the trilobites by far take the lead with their musical species names, a delightful discovery thanks largely to the work of Dr Greg Edgecombe, Dr Jonathan Adrian and their co-workers.

A trilobite’s favourite music

So what types of music did our prehistoric pals prefer?

The Rolling Stones are quite a  popular preference amongst the trilobites with Aegrotocatellus jaggeri and Perirehaedulus richardsi named after Mick Jagger and Keith Richards respectively and Aegrotocatellus nankerphelgeorum named after the bands early pseudonym – Nanker Phelge.

Evidently the trilobites were swept up in the British Invasion phenomenon as the trilobite genus Struszia, found in the Canadian Arctic archipelago, is brimming with Beatles groupies. Members include the self-explanatory ‘Sturszia’ mccartneyi and S. harrisoni, but also S. petebesti, after the Beatles’ original drummer Pete Best, S. epsteini after the band’s manager Brain Eptstein, S. martini, after George Martin the man to first sign the Beatles’ and S. onoae after Yoko Ono.


The Beatles – absolutely thrilled to have trilobites named after them (Wikimedia Commons).

Additional Beatles fans can be discovered lurking amongst other trilobite genera too; the Avalanchurus genus is home to A. lennoni and A. starri and the Frammia genus includes the species F. bachae, named after Barbara Bach, the actress and wife of Ringo Starr. Avalanchurus trilobites do however appear divided in their musical tastes with other species, A. simoni and A. garfunkeli, favouring the folk rock harmonies of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel over the fab four.

Our ocean-dwelling arthropods were also very keen on their punk rock music. The Silurian aged Arcticalymene viciousi, A. rotteni, A. jonesi, A. cooki, A. matlocki, are all named after members of the Sex Pistols and Mackenziurus joeyi, M. ceejayi, M. deedeei and M. johnnyi are named after New-York punk quartet The Ramones.


Sex Pistols trilobites! From Adrain, J.M. and Edgecombe, G.D. (1997) ‘Silurian (Wenlock) calymenid trilobites from the Cape Phillips Formation, Central Canadian Arctic’, Journal of Paleontology, 71(4), pp. 657–682. doi: 10.1017/S0022336000040130.


One species however, did try to stand out from the rock music crowd as a jazz enthusiast. Milesdavis eldredgei a Silurian aged trilobite was named after both the infamous jazz musician Miles Davis and after notable trilobite worker Niles Eldredge. Unfortunately the genus Hedstroemia was found to be a previous synonym for the same group, and therefore, due to the rules of binomial nomenclature, the generic name Milesdavis is no longer accepted. Sorry Mr Davis, there is apparently no room for jazz in the trilobites’ musical repertoire!


A trilobite in its natural habitat, apparently (adapted from Wikimedia Commons)


One thought on “Door 22: The rock music content of rocks

  1. Pingback: Door 1 – 1.5 billion years of Plate Tectonic Stories | Geological Society of London blog

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