Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Was the Cambrian explosion both an effect and an artifact of true polar wander?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

DOI

Author(s)

Ross N. Mitchell, Timothy David Raub, Samuel C. Silva, Joseph L. Kirschvink

Abstract

Charles Darwin suspected that the Cambrian “explosion” might be an artifact of fossil preservation. A more recent, initially controversial hypothesis that repeated true polar wander (TPW) triggered the Ediacaran-Cambrian explosion of animal life has been supported by numerous paleomagnetic and geochronologic refinements. These data imply ∼75° of TPW between 535 and 515 million years ago, coinciding with the paleontologically observed rise in metazoan diversity and disparity. We show here that this evolutionary trend is explained simply by the well known ecology-driven increase of diversity in low latitudes, coupled by other ecological effects as well as the enhanced deposition of sedimentary rocks during TPW-driven sea-level transgressions. During the Cambrian TPW event, Laurentia and parts of Gondwanaland moved into the equatorial zone while experiencing local TPW-induced transgressions; these areas dominate the paleontological record of the time. Although diversity might thus be considered partly artifactual, TPW acted on Cambrian biogeography to increase net diversity; and enhanced rates of origination and extinction also could increase disparity, especially if Early Cambrian TPW occurred at a time when genetic regulatory networks were critically poised for expansion and exaptation.
Close

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)945-957
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Science
Volume315
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015

    Research areas

  • Cambrian explosion, True Polar Wander, Plate tectonics, Diversity, Paleogeography

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. A marine origin for the late Mesoproterozoic Copper Harbor and Nonesuch Formations of the Midcontinent Rift of Laurentia

    Jones, S. M., Prave, A. R., Raub, T. D., Cloutier, J., Stüeken, E. E., Rose, C. V., Linnekogel, S. & Nazarov, K., 9 Nov 2019, In : Precambrian Research. 336, 105510.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Unique Neoproterozoic carbon isotope excursions sustained by coupled evaporite dissolution and pyrite burial

    Shields, G. A., Mills, B. J. W., Zhu, M., Raub, T. D., Daines, S. J. & Lenton, T. M., 2 Sep 2019, In : Nature Geoscience.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Paleoproterozoic increase in zircon δ18O driven by rapid emergence of continental crust

    Spencer, C. J., Partin, C. A., Kirkland, C. L., Raub, T. D., Liebmann, J. & Stern, R. A., 15 Jul 2019, In : Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. 257, p. 16-25 10 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Evidence for melting mud in Earth's mantle from extreme oxygen isotope signatures in zircon

    Edinburgh Ion Microprobe Facility (EIMF), Spencer, C. J., Cavosie, A. J., Raub, T. D., Rollinson, H., Jeon, H., Searle, M. P., Miller, J. A., McDonald, B. J. & Evans, N. J., 1 Nov 2017, In : Geology. 45, 11, p. 975-978 4 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  5. Geology and geochronology of the Tana Basin, Ethiopia: LIP volcanism, super eruptions and Eocene-Oligocene environmental change

    Prave, T., Bates, C. R., Donaldson, C. H., Toland, H., Condon, D. J., Mark, D. & Raub, T. D., 1 Jun 2016, In : Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 443, p. 1-8 8 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. Intraplate orogenesis in response to Gondwana assembly: Kwangsian Orogeny, South China

    Xu, Y-J., Cawood, P. A. & Du, Y-S., Apr 2016, In : American Journal of Science. 316, 4, p. 329-362 34 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Sutton Hotspot: Resolving Ediacaran-Cambrian Tectonics and True Polar Wander for Laurentia

    Mitchell, R. N., Kilian, T. M., Raub, T. D., Evans, D. A. D., Bleeker, W. & Maloof, A. C., Oct 2011, In : American Journal of Science. 311, 8, p. 651-663 13 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Geochronological and geochemical constraints on the Dashibao Basalts, SW China: petrogensis and relationship with the Emeishan LIP

    Zi, J-W., Fan, W-M., Wang, Y. J., Cawood, P. A., Peng, T. P. & Sun, L. H., 2010, In : American Journal of Science. 310, p. 1054-1080 26 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Stratigraphy of the port nolloth group of namibia and south africa and implications for the age of neoproterozoic neoproterozoic iron formations

    Macdonald, F. A., Strauss, J. V., Rose, C. V., Dudás, F. Ö. & Schrag, D. P., Nov 2010, In : American Journal of Science. 310, 9, p. 862-888 27 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

ID: 241583043

Top