Trilobite, any member of a group of extinct fossil arthropods easily recognized by their distinctive three-lobed, three-segmented form. Trilobites, exclusively marine animals, first appeared at the beginning of the Cambrian Period, about 542 million years ago, when they dominated the seas. Although they became less abundant in succeeding geologic periods, a few forms persisted into the Permian Period, which ended about 251 million years ago.
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