Prehistoric Sites

Girvan - Trilobites and other fossils

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Local artist Winifred Wright made Girvan the home of trilobites in Carrick when she created six ceramic panels inspired by the pre-historic creatures and local fossil remains. As part of the Carrick Community Heritage Trail, in 2013 these were installed along the north side of Girvan Harbour with an information board to create a fascinating fossil trail. The next time you’re in Girvan why not jump back in time to a ancient era before the ice ages and see how many trilobites you can spot on the fossil trail.


Trilobites lived in the sea and became extinct over a hundred million years before dinosaurs even roamed the earth - but we have found plenty evidence of them around Girvan.

A fossil group of extinct marine arthropods, Trilobites come from the class of Trilobita. Trilobites form one of the earliest known groups of arthropods.


An arthropod has a segmented body with many jointed limbs. They also have an exoskeleton; which means they have a hard skeleton on the outside that acts as armour. Some arthropods you may know include: spiders, insects, centipedes, mites, ticks, lobsters, crabs and shrimp. There are millions of different types of arthropod specifies that are know about and it is believed that there are millions more undiscovered.


The word trilobite literary means three lobes, which would seem apt as whatever their size, all of the thousands of trilobite fossils found have a similar body plan made up of three main body parts: a cephalon (head), a segmented thorax, and a pygidium (tail piece)

However, the three lobes that the name trilobite describes is not a reference to these. It in fact refers to the trilobite’s make up of a long central axial lobe, with pleural lobes on each side. These three lobes are universal among all trilobites.

Not all Trilobites lived in the same way, many different species meant for many different lifestyles: some moved along the seabed as predators, scavengers or filter feeders and others swam through the ocean feeding on plankton. The smallest known trilobite species is under a millimetre long, while the largest include species from 30 to over 70 cm in length.

They also shed their hard shells as they grow, therefore just one animal could leave a legacy of several fossils.

The trilobites were among the most successful of all early animals, roaming the oceans for over 270 million years. To date, over 20,000 different species of trilobite have been discovered and as new species of trilobites are found each year, this number continues to grow. In addition to the number of species there are, the geographical reach of trilobites is quite phenomenal as they have been found all over the world. This makes trilobites the single most diverse class of extinct organism known to man.

Carrick’s Geology

Carrick is associated with the largest trilobite fossil ever found in the United Kingdom. The fascinating geology around Girvan is the result of movement in the earth’s tectonic plates, shifting and folding as the layers meet, unearthing extraordinary high levels of fossil material. Most of the fossils found in Carrick are the remains of corals, sea?shells, starfish, worm-tubes and an especially high number of trilobites of great variety. Throughout the 19th century, Carrick was closely associated with prominent geologists and collectors and many of their fossil collections have been recognised as significant and of national importance. While you are in Girvan once you have completed the fossil trail, please go and see the real fossils in the collection at the McKechnie Institute, Dalrymple Street.


Top & Bottom: Ceramic panels by Winifred Wright, Wave Craft Gallery