Geological Magazine

Original Article

Patterns of extinction and recovery of phacopid trilobites during the Frasnian–Famennian (Late Devonian) mass extinction event, Canning Basin, Western Australia


a1 Laboratoire de Paléontologie, Institut des Sciences de l'Evolution, Université Montpellier II, Cc 062, Place E. Bataillon, 34095 Montpellier, France

a2 Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EQ, UK

a3 Université des Sciences et Technologies de Lille 1, UMR 8157 du CNRS, Laboratoire de Paléontologie et Paléogéographie du Paléozoïque, 59655 Villeneuve d'Ascq Cedex, France


A diverse fauna of phacopid trilobites is described from the Late Devonian (middle Frasnian to early Famennian) of the northern Canning Basin, Western Australia. One new genus and four species in two genera are described from zones 11, 13a and 13b of the middle and late Frasnian: Trimerocephaloides sinevisus gen. nov. and sp. nov., T. ? linguiformis sp. nov., Acuticryphops acuticeps (Kayser, 1889) and A. klapperi sp. nov. Late Frasnian phacopines are either blind, as shown for the first time in Trimerocephaloides sinevisus, or show trends to decreasing eye size up to the Frasnian–Famennian ‘Kellwasser’ mass extinction event. This evolutionary trend in Acuticryphops is demonstrated to have been global at this time. One new genus and six species of early Famennian phacopids are described, from the Upper triangularis, crepida and rhomboidea zones: Houseops gen. nov. with the new taxa H. canningensis sp. nov., H. beckeri sp. nov. and H. sp. A, Babinops planiventer Feist & Becker, 1997, B. minor sp. nov., Trimerocephalus tardispinosus Feist & Becker, 1997 and T. mimbi sp. nov. In contrast to European sections where exclusively blind phacopids are known in earliest Famennian sites, initial recovery following the mass extinction event in Canning peri-reefal environments is characterized by oculated forms. These trilobites must have evolved from conservative ancestors with normal eyes that had succeeded in surviving the Kellwasser biocrises in reef-related shallow water niches. Thus the origin of post-event phacopids from shallow water environments is demonstrated for the first time. Descendant lineages show increasing eye size, increased cephalic vaulting and effacement during the early Famennian.

(Received December 10 2007)

(Accepted May 08 2008)

(Online publication September 09 2008)


  • trilobites;
  • Phacopida;
  • Devonian;
  • Australia;
  • mass extinction;
  • evolution


c1 Author for correspondence: