When Did Trilobites Become Extinct? (Are They Alive Today?)

when did trilobites become extinct

The Fate of the Trilobites

Although a few impersonators have surfaced to excite the general community over the years, trilobites, so far as scientists can tell, are truly an extinct creature. Exactly when they became extinct has been a point of debate. One school of thought is that they died off slowly, unable to continue to adapt to changing habitat.

Scientists see a steady decline in trilobite populations and evidence of bite marks on fossil specimens indicating larger, more aggressive predators over time. But these scientists also note the almost irrefutable possibility of a catastrophic extinction event. Several such events have been found in evidence in the layers of history. The surviving trilobite populations no doubt fell prey to such a phenomenon.

But the question remains–when did the final event occur? Setting dates on events so far removed from our time takes a bit of faith on any side. Evolutionists and creationists hotly debate with wild-eyed fanaticism about what science will and will not support. I am no expert, but in fairness to each side, I will attempt to summarize opposing points of view.

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2 Theories of When Trilobites Became Extinct


Evolutionists contend that trilobites existed long before the age of the dinosaurs and for an incredible length of time, from the early part of the Cambrian Period, 521 million years ago, until some cataclysmic event near the close of the Permian Period, 252 million years ago. An event such as a huge meteor strike off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula radically changed their habitat so as to exterminate them completely.


Many creationists disagree radically with evolutionists’ ideas about the age of the earth in general. Creationists believe the earth to be slightly over 10,000 years old. They believe the Great Flood of Noah’s day resulted in the radical changes in the earth’s environment that precipitated the extinction of over 90% of living species, both plant and animal. This event occurred about 4500 years ago on the creationist’s timeline. In their view, trilobites became one of the victims of this catastrophic event.

Are Trilobites Alive Today? | Trilobite Imposters

Whatever your belief system, one thing is certain. Trilobites are indeed gone from the earth. There have been a few false starts by the discovery of some look-alikes that were quickly discredited.

Some of these imposters include the chiton, found in most of the world’s intertidal shores. Although the view from above may be similar, the snail-like foot beneath reveals this mollusk for what it is.

From the top, a Chiton resembles a trilobite

Other imposters include the aquatic larvae of a genus of beetles called “water pennies.” Again, the underside of these creatures reveals the development of six legs, and they are only found in freshwater, whereas trilobites are exclusively marine animals. There are also several crustaceans that have been mistaken for surviving trilobites but do not meet the required characteristics found in fossil evidence.

Truths About Trilobites

And so we find certain truths about trilobites are irrefutable. They existed in incredible numbers and varieties in the distant past. They continue to thrill us with their fossil remains. And they no longer live along our vast ocean floors.

Of course, some formerly-thought extinct species have been discovered alive and well in recent decades, so who can tell what the future holds. For now, rock hunters and scientists will continue to unearth new truths about the life and times of trilobites across the globe.

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11/28/2023 02:07 pm GMT

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