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Title: Cambrian  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Ordovician, Trilobite, Cambrian, Taxobox/testcases, Paleozoic
Collection: Cambrian, Geological Periods, Paleozoic
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


The Cambrian ( or ) is the first

  • Cambrian period on In Our Time at the BBC. (listen now)
  • Biostratigraphy – includes information on Cambrian trilobite biostratigraphy
  • Dr. Sam Gon's trilobite pages (contains numerous Cambrian trilobites)
  • Examples of Cambrian Fossils
  • Paleomap Project
  • vol. 31GeologyReport on the web on Amthor and others from
  • Weird Life on the Mats

External links

  • Gould, S. J.; Wonderful Life: the Burgess Shale and the Nature of Life (New York: Norton, 1989)
  • Ogg, J.; June 2004, Overview of Global Boundary Stratotype Sections and Points (GSSPs) Accessed 30 April 2006.

Further reading

  1. ^ a b  
  2. ^
  3. ^ Sedgwick and R. I. Murchison (1835) "On the Silurian and Cambrian systems, exhibiting the order in which the older sedimentary strata succeed each other in England and Wales," Notices and Abstracts of Communications to the British Association for the Advancement of Science at the Dublin meeting, August 1835, pp. 59-61, in: Report of the Fifth Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science; held in Dublin in 1835 (1836). From p. 60: "Professor Sedgwick then described in descending order the groups of slate rocks, as they are seen in Wales and Cumberland. To the highest he gave the name of Upper Cambrian group. … To the next inferior group he gave the name of Middle Cambrian. … The Lower Cambrian group occupies the S.W. coast of Cærnarvonshire, … "
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Schieber, 2007, pp. 53–71.
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ Unicode Character 'LATIN CAPITAL LETTER C WITH BAR' (U+A792). Accessed 15 Jun 2015
  13. ^ A. Knoll, M. Walter, G. Narbonne, and N. Christie-Blick (2004) "The Ediacaran Period: A New Addition to the Geologic Time Scale." Submitted on Behalf of the Terminal Proterozoic Subcommission of the International Commission on Stratigraphy.
  14. ^ M.A. Fedonkin, B.S. Sokolov, M.A. Semikhatov, N.M.Chumakov (2007). "Vendian versus Ediacaran: priorities, contents, prospectives." In: edited by M. A. Semikhatov "The Rise and Fall of the Vendian (Ediacaran) Biota. Origin of the Modern Biosphere. Transactions of the International Conference on the IGCP Project 493, August 20–31, 2007, Moscow." Moscow: GEOS.
  15. ^ A. Ragozina, D. Dorjnamjaa, A. Krayushkin, E. Serezhnikova (2008). " and the Vendian-Cambrian boundaryTreptichnus pedum". 33 Intern. Geol. Congr. 6–14 August 2008, Oslo, Norway. Abstracts. Section HPF 07 Rise and fall of the Ediacaran (Vendian) biota. P. 183.
  16. ^
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  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ a b
  23. ^
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  25. ^
  26. ^ Schieber et al., 2007, pp. 53–71.
  27. ^
  28. ^ Greening of the Earth pushed way back in time
  29. ^ Cambrian HSU NHM
  30. ^ Out of Thin Air: Dinosaurs, Birds, and Earth's Ancient Atmosphere
  31. ^ As the worms churn
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^ The Ordovician: Life's second big bang
  35. ^ Oxygen crash led to Cambrian mass extinction
  36. ^ Collette & Hagadorn, 2010.
  37. ^ Collette, Gass & Hagadorn, 2012
  38. ^ Yochelson & Fedonkin, 1993.
  39. ^ Getty & Hagadorn, 2008.
  40. ^ a b


See also

Many modes of preservation are unique to the Cambrian, resulting in an abundance of Lagerstätten.

In contrast to later periods, the Cambrian fauna was somewhat restricted; free-floating organisms were rare, with the majority living on or close to the sea floor;[40] and mineralizing animals were rarer than in future periods, in part due to the unfavourable ocean chemistry.[40]

Some Cambrian organisms ventured onto land, producing the trace fossils Protichnites and Climactichnites. Fossil evidence suggests that euthycarcinoids, an extinct group of arthropods, produced at least some of the Protichnites.[36][37] Fossils of the maker of Climactichnites have not been found; however, fossil trackways and resting traces suggest a large, slug-like mollusk.[38][39]

While the early Cambrian showed such diversification that it has been named the Cambrian Explosion, this changed later in the period, when it was exposed to a sharp drop in biodiversity. About 515 million years ago, the number of species going extinct exceeded the amount of new species appearing. Five million years later, the number of genera had dropped from an earlier peak of about 600 to just 450. Also the speciation rate in many groups was reduced to between a fifth and a third of previous levels. 500 million years ago, oxygen levels fell dramatically in the oceans, leading to hypoxia, while the levels of poisonous hydrogen sulfide simultaneously increased, causing another extinction. The later half of Cambrian was surprisingly barren and show evidence of several rapid extinction events; the stromatolites which had been replaced by reef building sponges known as Archaeocyatha, returned once more as the archaeocyathids went extinct. This declining trend did not change before the Ordovician.[34][35]

[33] However, many of these phyla were represented only by stem-group forms; and since mineralized phyla generally have a benthic origin, they may not be a good proxy for (more abundant) non-mineralized phyla.[32].Ordovician, which appear in the Lower Bryozoa except the phyla Around the same time there was a seemingly rapid appearance of representatives of all the mineralized [31] Most animal life during the Cambrian was aquatic, with


Although there were a variety of macroscopic marine plants (e.g. Margaretia and Dalyia), no true land plant (embryophyte) fossils are known from the Cambrian. However, biofilms and microbial mats were well developed on Cambrian tidal flats and beaches.,[26] and further inland were a variety of lichens, fungi and microbes forming microbial earth ecosystems, comparable with modern soil crust of desert regions, contributing to soil formation.[27][28]

A reconstruction of Margaretia dorus from the Burgess Shale, which are believed to be green algae


The Earth was generally cold during the early Cambrian, probably due to the ancient continent of Gondwana covering the South Pole and cutting off polar ocean currents. There were likely polar ice caps and a series of glaciations, as the planet was still recovering from an earlier Snowball Earth. It became warmer towards the end of the period; the glaciers receded and eventually disappeared, and sea levels rose dramatically. This trend would continue into the Ordovician period.


With a lack of sea ice – the great glaciers of the Marinoan Snowball Earth were long melted[24] – the sea level was high, which led to large areas of the continents being flooded in warm, shallow seas ideal for thriving life. The sea levels fluctuated somewhat, suggesting there were 'ice ages', associated with pulses of expansion and contraction of a south polar ice cap.[25]

Plate reconstructions suggest a global supercontinent, Pannotia, was in the process of breaking up early in the period,[20][21] with Laurentia (North America), Baltica, and Siberia having separated from the main supercontinent of Gondwana to form isolated land masses.[22] Most continental land was clustered in the Southern Hemisphere at this time, but was gradually drifting north.[22] Large, high-velocity rotational movement of Gondwana appears to have occurred in the Early Cambrian.[23]

Distribution of Cambrian Rocks


A more precise date of 542 ± 0.3 mya for the extinction event at the beginning of the Cambrian has recently been submitted.[19] The rationale for this precise dating is interesting in itself as an example of paleological deductive reasoning. Exactly at the Cambrian boundary there is a marked fall in the abundance of carbon-13, a "reverse spike" that paleontologists call an excursion. It is so widespread that it is the best indicator of the position of the Precambrian-Cambrian boundary in stratigraphic sequences of roughly this age. One of the places that this well-established carbon-13 excursion occurs is in Oman. Amthor (2003) describes evidence from Oman that indicates the carbon-isotope excursion relates to a mass extinction: the disappearance of distinctive fossils from the Precambrian coincides exactly with the carbon-13 anomaly. Fortunately, in the Oman sequence, so too does a volcanic ash horizon from which zircons provide a very precise age of 542 ± 0.3 mya (calculated on the decay rate of uranium to lead). This new and precise date tallies with the less precise dates for the carbon-13 anomaly, derived from sequences in Siberia and Namibia.

A radiometric date from New Brunswick puts the end of the Lower Cambrian around 511 mya. This leaves 21 mya for the other two series/epochs of the Cambrian.

The end of the period was eventually set at a fairly definite faunal change now identified as an extinction event. Fossil discoveries and radiometric dating in the last quarter of the 20th century have called these dates into question. Date inconsistencies as large as 20 million years are common between authors. Framing dates of ca. 545 to 490 mya were proposed by the International Subcommission on Global Stratigraphy as recently as 2002.

The time range for the Cambrian has classically been thought to have been from about 542 million-years-ago (mya) to about 488 mya. The lower boundary of the Cambrian was traditionally set at the earliest appearance of trilobites and also unusual forms known as archeocyathids (literally "ancient cup") that are thought to be the earliest sponges and also the first non-microbial reef builders.

Cambrian dating

*In Russian scientific thought the lower boundary of the Cambrian is suggested to be defined at the base of the Tommotian Stage which is characterized by diversification and global distribution of organisms with mineral skeletons and the appearance of the first Archaeocyath bioherms.[16][17][18]

Chinese North American Russian-Kazakhian Australian Regional
Furongian Ibexian (part) Ayusokkanian Datsonian Dolgellian (Trempealeauan, Fengshanian)
Sunwaptan Sakian Iverian Ffestiniogian (Franconian, Changshanian)
Steptoan Aksayan Idamean Maentwrogian (Dresbachian)
Marjuman Batyrbayan Mindyallan
Cambrian Series 3 Maozhangian Mayan Boomerangian
Zuzhuangian Delamaran Amgan Undillian
Zhungxian Florian
  Dyeran Ordian
Cambrian Series 2 Longwangmioan Toyonian Lenian
Changlangpuan Montezuman Botomian
Qungzusian Atdabanian
Placentian Tommotian
Precambrian Sinian Hadrynian Nemakit-Daldynian*

Each of the local epochs is divided into several stages. The Cambrian is divided into several regional faunal stages of which the Russian-Kazakhian system is most used in international parlance:

Trilobite zones allow biostratigraphic correlation in the Cambrian.

Because the international stratigraphic subdivision is not yet complete, many local subdivisions are still widely used. In some of these subdivisions the Cambrian is divided into three epochs with locally differing names – the Early Cambrian (Caerfai or Waucoban,  to mya), Middle Cambrian (St Davids or Albertan, mya) and Furongian ( mya; also known as Late Cambrian, Merioneth or Croixan). Rocks of these epochs are referred to as belonging to the Lower, Middle, or Upper Cambrian.

The Cambrian period follows the Ediacaran and is followed by the Ordovician period. The Cambrian is divided into four epochs or series and ten ages or stages. Currently only two series and five stages are named and have a GSSP.


Despite the long recognition of its distinction from younger Ordovician rocks and older Precambrian rocks, it was not until 1994 that this time period was internationally ratified. The base of the Cambrian is defined on a complex assemblage of trace fossils known as the Treptichnus pedum assemblage.[13] Nevertheless, the usage of Treptichnus pedum, a reference ichnofossil for the lower boundary of the Cambrian, for the stratigraphic detection of this boundary is always risky because of occurrence of very similar trace fossils belonging to the Treptichnids group well below the T. pedum in Namibia, Spain and Newfoundland, and possibly, in the western USA. The stratigraphic range of T. pedum overlaps the range of the Ediacaran fossils in Namibia, and probably in Spain.[14][15]



  • Stratigraphy 1
    • Subdivisions 1.1
    • Cambrian dating 1.2
  • Paleogeography 2
  • Climate 3
  • Flora 4
  • Fauna 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

The United States Federal Geographic Data Committee uses a "barred capital C" Є character similar to the capital letter Ukrainian Ye Є to represent the Cambrian Period.[10] The proper[11] Unicode character is .[12]

While diverse life forms prospered in the oceans, the land was comparatively barren – with nothing more complex than a microbial soil crust[8] and a few molluscs that emerged to browse on the microbial biofilm[9] Most of the continents were probably dry and rocky due to a lack of vegetation. Shallow seas flanked the margins of several continents created during the breakup of the supercontinent Pannotia. The seas were relatively warm, and polar ice was absent for much of the period.

. choanoflagellates similar to modern protists from a single common ancestor: flagellated colonial monophyletically) evolved animals (metazoa, produced the first representatives of all modern animal phyla. Phylogenetic analysis has supported the view that during the Cambrian radiation, Cambrian explosion The rapid diversification of lifeforms in the Cambrian, known as the [7] The Cambrian marked a profound change in


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