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Revolutions that made the Earth$
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Tim Lenton and Andrew Watson

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199587049

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199587049.001.0001

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Life gets an upgrade

Life gets an upgrade

Chapter:
(p.210) (p.211) 11 Life gets an upgrade
Source:
Revolutions that made the Earth
Author(s):

Tim Lenton

Andrew Watson

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199587049.003.0011

This chapter discusses the Proterozoic Eon, which occurred 2.3 billion years ago. The sudden appearance of complex forms in the lowest Cambrian was a puzzle that Darwin saw as one of the principal objections to his theory of evolution. He correctly guessed that the Precambrian must actually have covered a vast amount of time and that ‘during these vast periods the world swarmed with living creatures’, though he could offer no explanation as to why they left no fossils. We now know that the majority of older fossils are microscopic and unicellular, and for this reason had not been recognised. The intervening long spell of stability, especially from 2 to 1 billion years ago, has been christened the ‘boring billion’. Evolution appears to have proceeded at a sedate pace, while the oceans and atmosphere were locked in a halfway house state, which may have impeded life.

Keywords:   lowest Cambrian, Proterozoic Eon, Darwin, theory of evolution

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