'Cascade of events' led to explosion of animal life 520 m yrs ago

Washington, Sept. 20 (ANI): A new study has suggested that the explosion of animal life on Earth around 520 million years ago took place because of a combination of interlinked factors rather than a single underlying cause.

Professor Paul Smith of Oxford University and Professor David Harper of Durham University and a team of scientists have spent four years working on data from a site in northernmost Greenland, facing the Arctic Ocean.

The site, at Siriuspasset, is located at 83 degree N, just 500 miles from the North Pole in a remote part of north Greenland. Although logistically very difficult to reach, Siriuspasset attracted the team because of the high quality of its fossil material and the insights it provides.

Lead author Professor Smith said that this is a period of time that has attracted a lot of attention because it is when animals appear very abruptly in the fossil record, and in great diversity.

He said that out of this event came nearly all of the major groups of animals that are recognised today.

Described by the researchers as a 'cascade of events', the interacting causes behind the explosion in animal life are likely to have begun with an early Cambrian sea level rise.

Professor Harper, Professor of Palaeontology in the Department of Earth Sciences at Durham University, said that it would be naive to think that any one cause ignited this phenomenal explosion of animal life.

He said that rather, a chain reaction involving a number of biological and geological drivers kicked into gear, escalating the planet's diversity during a relatively short interval of deep time.

Harper added that the Cambrian Explosion set the scene for much of the subsequent marine life that built on cascading and nested feedback loops, linking the organisms and their environment that first developed some 520 million years ago.

The findings have been published in the journal Science. (ANI)


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