On the basis of precise trilobite examples, the difficulties and interest in cladistic analysis are emphasized. The problem of distinguishing plesiomorphic and apomorphic characters is exemplified in Morgatia with reference to auxiliary impressions of the glabella and vincular furrows. In Crozonaspis, cladograms by themselves do not clarify the distinction of primitive versus derived features; the stratigraphical distribution of species, although not conclusive, is helpful in clarifying relationships. Although stratigraphical data are essential for reconstructing species lineages, they may be misleading when dealing with taxa above the species level. For all phylogenetical reconstructions, the completeness of the palaeontological and biogeographical record must be taken into consideration. D Trilobita, Phacopida, cladistics, Ordovician.