Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Riverside

UC Riverside Previously Published Works bannerUC Riverside

The trilobite upper limb branch is a well-developed gill.


Whether the upper limb branch of Paleozoic "biramous" arthropods, including trilobites, served a respiratory function has been much debated. Here, new imaging of the trilobite Triarthrus eatoni shows that dumbbell-shaped filaments in the upper limb branch are morphologically comparable with gill structures in crustaceans that aerate the hemolymph. In Olenoides serratus, the upper limb's partial articulation to the body via an extended arthrodial membrane is morphologically comparable to the junction of the respiratory book gill of Limulus and differentiates it from the typically robust exopod junction in Chelicerata or Crustacea. Apparently limited mechanical rotation of the upper branch may have protected the respiratory structures. Partial attachment of the upper branch to the body wall may represent an intermediate state in the evolution of limb branch fusion between dorsal attachment to the body wall, as in Radiodonta, and ventral fusion to the limb base, as in extant Euarthropoda.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View