Research Articles

Biostratigraphic and Geochronologic Constraints on Early Animal Evolution

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Science  27 Oct 1995:
Vol. 270, Issue 5236, pp. 598-604
DOI: 10.1126/science.270.5236.598


Two distinct evolutionary pulses, represented by the Vendian Ediacaran fauna and Cambrian small shelly faunas, are generally thought to characterize the emergence of macroscopic animals at the end of Precambrian time. Biostratigraphic and uranium-lead zircon age data from Namibia indicate that most globally distributed Ediacaran fossils are no older than 549 million years old and some are as young as 543 million years old, essentially coincident with the Precambrian-Cambrian boundary. These data suggest that the most diverse assemblages of Ediacaran animals existed within 6 million years of the Precambrian-Cambrian boundary and that simple discoid animals may have appeared at least 50 million years earlier.

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