One dark, cold late October night, the wind whistled outside as a museum curator stepped into the store room. An old branch from a tired old tree raps against a window close by. The curator reaches out and grips the old wooden handle of a cupboard door. The door moaned as it was yanked open. A drawer slowly creaked as it was pulled out. The curator let out a high pitched scream as they became face to face with the most ghastly of sights.
The last thing any museum curator wants to see is a specimen which has been attacked by pests. Worst still, a cast that looks nothing like it should: that would make a grown man scream.
This week’s Bad Cast is fitting for Halloween. Not only is it horrifically bad, it looks like the cast of a demon’s hand on a door; just like something from those great 1980s horror films.
A demon didn’t patiently wait while it’s evil three clawed hand held onto a terrified museum curators door. It would have been incredibly fantastic to capture a mould of a demon’s hand. But also impossible. Because you need steady hands to make moulds, and I for one know, I would be shaking like a terrified puppy. The hand would have to be pretty still too; it is much more likely that it would be clawing, scratching, and doing other really scary things to the door. Plus demons aren’t real.
It is a cast of one of the most familiar kinds of trilobites, called Calymene. (I’m sorry, it is yet another cast of a trilobite. For some unknown reason, around a third of our bad casts are of trilobites. Trilobites themselves are pretty awesome creatures. Not that you would know from these terrible reproductions. I am still trying to work out why a curator 104 years ago spent a lot of money on really freakin’ bad casts of trilobites.)
Calymene is a fairly common Genus of trilobite found in Silurian and early Devonian rocks across North america, Africa and Europe. The oceans around 440 – 360 million years ago were full of these little invertebrates.
The name actually means ‘beautiful cresent’ in reference to the raised part in the middle of the head (called the glabella). In fact, Calymene is more familiar than you may realise, as this perfectly looking trilobite is the typical example used in illustrations of trilobite anatomy.
Calymene was a sweet little trilobite, and a Genus close to my heart. I have one from the Czech Republic from when I was 14, one of my first fossils I owned. Generally, they wouldn’t have been bigger than 2cm-3cm, and they could roll into little balls for protection. The hard shell you can see in the photo above was hard, and great protection for the soft vulnerable insides.
For Halloween, I am not giving you a fossil of a terrifying beast.Nor evidence of a demon. I am giving you something worse. Much worse. Something that gives me nightmares. An unbelievably bad cast of a most beautiful creature.