Oxygenating the Oceans in the Early Cambrian – #365papers – 2018 – 8

Zhang, Chang, Khan, Feng, Denelian, Clausen, Tribovillard, and Steiner, 2017, The link between metazoan diversity and paleo-oxygneation in the early Cambrian: An integrated palaeontological and geochemical record from the eastern Three Gorges Region of South China: Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology.

What’s it about?

The Cambrian is the period of Earth’s history in which many of the modern groups of multicelluar organisms appeared in the fossil record for the first time. Some have argues that this also when these groups first appeared (the so-called “Cambrian Explosion”), but that’s not necessarily the case and is a good topic for another blog post. Rocks in South China provide a good record of this period of time and the authors show that the amount of oxygen in the ocean (and therefore in the atmosphere) fluctuated frequently during this important period of time.

Why does it matter?

This work documents the Cambrian Explosion, showing that instead of perhaps being a singular and sudden event, cycles of oxygenation and anoxic conditions occurred. This affects our concepts of how life diversified on Earth.

Why did I read this?

I am always interested in reading more about the early diversification of life on Earth, so I simply couldn’t resist. Also, there’s geochemistry involved, and I can’t resist a good LA-ICP-MS paper.


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