Gravicalymene bakeri: Fossils of New Trilobite Species Found in Tasmania

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Gravicalymene bakeri. Scale bar – 1 cm. Image credit: Smith & Ebach.

Paleontologists in Tasmania have unearthed the fossilized remains of a previously unknown species of the trilobite genus Gravicalymene and named it after Thomas Stewart Baker, the fourth actor to play the title character in the television series ‘Doctor Who.’

Gravicalymene is a small genus of calymenid trilobites that flourished from the Ordovician to the Devonian period.

It includes at least seven species and is relatively well-known from the ancient continents of Avalonia, Baltica and Laurentia (i.e., Europe and North America).

The newly-discovered species, named Gravicalymene bakeri, lived during the Late Ordovician epoch, approximately 450 million years ago.

“During this time, Australia was part of the great landmass Gondwana, when complex marine ecosystems were starting to develop,” said Dr. Patrick Smith from the Australian Museum Research Institute and Macquarie University and Dr. Malte Ebach from the University of New South Wales.

“It was also a time when the first primitive plants were appearing on land.”

Several specimens of Gravicalymene bakeri were collected from the Late Ordovician shales of the Gordon Group in northern Tasmania.

“This is the first record of the genus Gravicalymene from the Ordovician of East Gondwana (Australasia),” the paleontologists said.

Gravicalymene bakeri was named after the actor Tom Baker for inspiring the study authors to develop careers in science.

“I’m not old enough to remember Tom Baker’s episodes which were originally aired in 1974-81,” Dr. Smith said.

“However, growing up as a teenager when the series re-aired in the early 2000s, I followed the show religiously and became convinced that a career in science was guaranteed to improve the world.”

“It was the character of Doctor Who, and especially the actor Tom Baker, that inspired me to explore the natural world,” Dr. Ebach added.

“So, it is a joy to name a trilobite in his honor. My sister-in-law has even knitted a replica Doctor Who scarf for the occasion.”

“I am delighted to be entitled at last,” said Baker, who is based in the UK.

“I hope the Who World will share my joy. Will I be allowed to tack ‘Fossil’ on official correspondence?”

“I hope the Who World will celebrate this fresh honor and will spread the news to those who live in remote places. Happy days to all the Who fans everywhere.”

The discovery is reported in the journal Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal of Palaeontology.


Patrick M. Smith & Malte C. Ebach. A new Ordovician (Katian) calymenid, Gravicalymene bakeri sp. nov., from the Gordon Group, Tasmania, Australia. Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal of Palaeontology, published online September 16, 2020; doi: 10.1080/03115518.2020.1797874