Biogeographic patterns from early Cambrian trilobites are used to evaluate the nature and timing of the Cambrian radiation. Results from a phylogenetic biogeographic analysis reveal that patterns of vicariance are compatible with a vicariant distribution of trilobites across what were originally joined elements of the supercontinent Pannotia; further, there is limited evidence for coordinated range expansion or geo-dispersal by these trilobites. As Pannotia had split apart sometime between 550-600 Ma this suggests that trilobites, and by extension several other metazoan taxa, had begun to diversify by this interval. This result suggests that there may have been some period of cryptic diversification by metazoans prior to the Cambrian radiation, though the inferred length of this interval is not as long as that invoked by some molecular studies. Perhaps trilobites existed at low population densities in marginal environments before they became paleontologically emergent. Even though the results suggest some apparent gap in the fossil record, the evolutionary signature of this gap is still preserved in the paleobiological patterns from the fossil record, indicating that the fossil record is still the one best source of data on the nature of key episodes in the history of life, like the Cambrian radiation.