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The Cambrian appearance of fossils representing diverse phyla has long inspired hypotheses about possible genetic or environmental catalysts of early animal evolution. Only recently, however, have data begun to emerge that can resolve the sequence of genetic and morphological innovations, environmental events, and ecological interactions that collectively shaped Cambrian evolution. Assembly of the modern genetic tool kit for development and the initial divergence of major animal clades occurred during the Proterozoic Eon. Crown group morphologies diversified in the Cambrian through changes in the genetic regulatory networks that organize animal ontogeny. Cambrian radiation may have been triggered by environmental perturbation near the Proterozoic-Cambrian boundary and subsequently amplified by ecological interactions within reorganized ecosystems.