Tallinn, Trilobites and Talks

by Jan Ove R. Ebbestad & Magne Høyberget

This time the DELGR went east, to the lovely medieval town of Tallinn in Estonia and the 6th International Conference on Trilobites and their Relatives. The meeting took place in the Gustav Adolf Gymnasium established 1631, known for being where Estonian palaeontologists of fame such as Armin Öpik, Valdar Jaanusson and Harry Mutvei graduated. Our host was Helje Pärnäste who had ardently worked to bring together nearly 80 specialists and trilobite aficionados from 15 or so countries.

A view across the old town of Tallinn from the medieval tower Kiek in de Kök.
The conference was held in the Gustav Adolf Gymnasium.

The full conference programme stretched over nearly two weeks, with pre- and post-conferences, two days of technical sessions on Saturday July 8th and Monday July 10th, and a mid-conference one-day excursion on the Sunday in between. Accompanying persons had their own full programme during the weekend.

Magne and I arrived on Friday before the meeting and joined in on the registration and ice breaker in the evening. A range of Estonian beer was available and a lovely buffet was laid out for us. The warm summer evening was perfect and catching up with old friends and seeing new faces was great fun.


Mingle at the ice breaker. Helje Pärnäste, the organizer of the conference, and David Bruton in the foreground. Just behind them is Frank Nikolaisen talking with Richard Fortey and Shanchi Peng.

The first International trilobite conference was held in Oslo 1973 and organized by Professor emeritus David L. Bruton and is now held every 5th year. David was, by the way, the supervisor of Jan Ove during his master thesis in Oslo. A few of the original participants of the 1973 meeting were even present during this meeting!

Helje with the dean of the Academy of Sciences (sitting) and the herald of Tallinn (re-enactment) just before the opening of the meeting

It was especially nice to meet Frank Nikolaisen who went with Gunnar Henningsmoen from the museum in Oslo to Digermulen in 1960 and 1963 to collect the first lower Cambrian trilobites. Frank told very colourful anecdotes of the strenuous travel with bus from Oslo during the first trip, a bus strike during the second trip which meant he had to hitch-hike! He got as far as Narvik before he decided to wait for Henningsmoen and his wife Kari who had travelled from Oslo with their car, a Volvo filled with the field gear. Apparently, Bardufoss was the place where they stocked up on food and beverage. Coming to Digermulen by boat meant that a fisherman dropped them of and a pick-up time was decided. The fisherman got a small bottle of booze when they parted ways with a hint that more was coming when they were picked up. This to ensure that they actually were picked up! Times they are changing…

Nikolaisen and Henningsmoen had only a week each time on the east-side of the peninsula, and it was the middle and upper Cambrian olenids that attracted Henningsmoen. This sort of explains why they didn’t find so many holmiid trilobites during their expedition.

The first technical sessions of the conference on Saturday covered trilobite lagerstätten, functional morphology, early evolution of arthropods and a poster session with a total o 23 presentations. Inbetween each session were treated to coffee, tea and croissants and lively talks and discussions. As always in these gatherings you have a wonderful opportunity to meet, talk and cover so many aspects of your work and ongoing projects.

Magne has just eyed through the diverse programme before the session starts.

Sunday was time for the mid-conference excursion, which neither of us participated in, but in the evening everyone were treated to a guided tour of Tallinn Town Hall, followed by an extraordinary medieval feast in the Olde Hansa guest house with plenty of food, drinks and entertainment in the form of live medieval music and a staff that went into their medieval roles all the way!

Frank and Magne during the Medieval feast.

Our presentation was to be given in the second session on Monday. An early start gave us first a poster session, followed by a very stimulating session on the recent developments on the Treatise and trilobite phylogeny. Of particular interest to us was a talk by Anna Żylińska and Jakub Nowicki on retro deformation of tectonically deformed trilobites. Although our material in general is relatively undisturbed, it will come in handy. The session on Cambrian trilobites followed this, and was chaired by Jan Ove and Per Ahlberg. Our presentation was the last of the session, just before lunch, but although people were now fatigued and hungry we had a few questions from interested colleagues.

After lunch the sessions proceeded in stratigraphical order, ending up with Devonian trilobites. Some 30 presentations were given this day. And suddenly the meeting and talks was over, ending with information on the next meeting which is likely to be in Cincinnati 2022 and the possible publication of results from the meeting in an upcoming Fossils & Strata. Dead line is in September already so we may be hard pressed to contribute to this volume.

To sum up, Magne and Jan Ove had a very stimulating and fun meeting in an excellently organized and lovely setting. Before the meeting we had been busy with photographing and measuring specimens, so for the first time we could present actual results from our study of the holmiids from the trilobite scree.

Jan Ove and Magne


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