Saturday, September 30, 2006

 

The Cambrian Explosion: Triggered by Mega-mountains?

From New Scientist Tech: A continental crash that raised one of the biggest mountain chains in the Earth's history may be responsible for the explosive diversification of animals more than 500 million years ago.

Sediments washed from the mountains - dubbed the Transgondwanan Supermountain - added vital nutrients to the ocean, opening new evolutionary opportunities, says Rick Squire, now at Monash University in Clayton, Victoria, Australia.

The rapid proliferation of animals that occurred at that time is one of evolution's biggest enigmas. Life had remained simple and largely single-celled for nearly three billion years, until the multi-celled Ediacara fauna evolved, 575 million years ago.

Most major groups of animals evolved during a second radiation, called the Cambrian explosion, from 530 to 510 million years ago. The mystery of what suddenly kick-started animal evolution has been a topic of hot debate among experts.

...Rick Squire suggests the trigger was the collision of a series of three large continental blocks - now called Arabia, India, and Antarctica - with the eastern edge of Africa from 650 to 515 million years ago. [Gondwana, Enigma]

Read the full article at "Mega-mountains spurred explosive evolution"
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Rick Squire's homepage

Based on the Earth and Planetary Science Letters' paper "Did the Transgondwanan Supermountain trigger the explosive radiation of animals on Earth?" (Abstract)

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