The Barr Trilobite – a local celebrity

“This remarkable crustacean has been hitherto known in England as the Barr Trilobite, having been found at the Hay Head lime works, near the village and beacon of Barr in Staffordshire”

The Silurian System, Roderick Murchison

As new kinds of animals, both living and extinct, are discovered, scientists attempt to classify them according to their physical characteristics and relationships to each other. This branch of science is known as Taxonomy. Taxonomists work to describe new species, and to refine, and sometimes redefine, previously described species.

“A very large specimen of it, 5 inches long by 3 1/6 wide, has been lithographed at Birmingham, and the species has been figured under the English name above stated by MR. F. Jukes and Mr. J. Sowerby”

The specimen figured in "The Magazine of Natural History, Volume II"

Having considered the Barr trilobite’s similarity to a number of already published descriptions of other trilobites, Murchison decided that this represented an entirely new family of trilobites and proceeded to name it Bumastus barriensis. He published this new name, described and illustrated the new species in his book, “The Silurian System”.

Bumastus refers to the resemblance to a type of large grape, the latin word for which would have been familiar to educated readers from Virgil’s Georgics.

barriensis means “of Barr”, the location where specimens could commonly be found.

When a new species is described in this way, usually one specimen is selected as the physical example which represents the species. This specimen is typically kept in a public collection or museum where it can be easily accessed by curators and researchers wanting to compare it to other discoveries. It is then known as a type specimen (Holotype is the most common designation, but there are other kinds of type such as lectotype and syntype).

You can search for specimens of Bumastus and other fossils within the collections of the museums services located in the Black Country using this website. Why not see what you can find?

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