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Trilobites were early examples of arthropods, a vast phylum that today includes such diverse creatures as lobsters, cockroaches and millipedes. These creatures had three main body parts: the cephalon (head), thorax (body), and pygidium (tail).

The trilobites comprised ten separate orders and thousands of species, ranging in size from less than a millimeter to well over two feet. These beetle-like creatures appear to have fed mostly on plankton, and they inhabited a typical array of undersea niches: some scavenging, some sedentary, and some crawling along the ocean bottom.