Cambrian Explosion: role of oxygen (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Tuesday, January 05, 2016, 16:07 (1544 days ago) @ David Turell

It has been proposed that an increase in oxygen triggered the Cambrian explosion. New date has appeared showing that oxygen was plentiful (4%)for some animals about 800 million years earlier:

"Oxygen is crucial for the existence of animals on Earth. But, an increase in oxygen did not apparently lead to the rise of the first animals. New research shows that 1.4 billion years ago there was enough oxygen for animals -- and yet over 800 million years went by before the first animals appeared on Earth.

"Animals evolved by about 600 million years ago, which was late in Earth's history. The late evolution of animals, and the fact that oxygen is central for animal respiration, has led to the widely promoted idea that animal evolution corresponded with a late a rise in atmospheric oxygen concentrations.

"'But sufficient oxygen in itself does not seem to be enough for animals to rise. This is indicated by our studies," say postdoc Emma Hammarlund and Professor Don Canfield, Nordic Center for Earth Evolution, University of Southern Denmark.

"Together with colleagues from the China National Petroleum Corporation and the University of Copenhagen, Hammarlund and Canfield have analyzed sediment samples from the Xiamaling Formation in China. Their analyses reveal that a deep ocean 1.4 billion years ago contained at least 4% of modern oxygen concentrations.


"The water column had an oxygen concentration at least 4 % of present atmospheric levels (PAL). That should be sufficient for animals to exist and evolve," says Canfield.

"'Having determined the lowest concentration of oxygen in the air almost one and a half billion years ago is unique," says Hammarlund, adding:

"'Researchers know of simple animals, such as sponges and worms, that today are capable of managing with less than 4% PAL, even much less."

"'Sponges probably resemble some of the first animals on Earth. If they manage with less than 4 % today's oxygen levels, it is likely that the first animals could do with these concentrations or less," says Canfield.

"The results differ from other studies and raise several questions, such as: Why then did animals rise so late in Earth's history?

"'The sudden diversification of animals probably was a result of many factors. Maybe the oxygen rise had less to do with the animal revolution than we previously assumed," says Hammarlund."

Comment: This leaves the Cambrian period with no explanation from an evolutionary standpoint as to why it appeared when it did. It remains the main stumbling block to Darwin's chance theory.

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