Palaeontological Association Annual Address 2020
Tales from the Cambrian Explosion
Professor Rachel Wood
The Cambrian Explosion marks the rise of diverse animal groups ca. 540 million years ago, but the triggers for this revolution remain poorly understood. I will explore the differing roles of changing climate, oceanic redox, nutrient availability and ecosystem feedbacks across the critical Ediacaran-Cambrian transitional period. The fossil record now reveals that the roots of the Cambrian Explosion are to be found in the Ediacaran. We can now document a series of pulses of enhanced seawater oxygen availability over the Ediacaran to Cambrian interval. These coincide with pulses of diversification and increased body size in animals, but the biological control of carbonate production was driven by ecosystem feedbacks including the rise of predation.
Rachel Wood has been Professor of Carbonate Geoscience at the University of Edinburgh since 2012. She has a first degree in Geology/Zoology, and a PhD in Geology. She held research fellowships at the Free University, Berlin, and the University of Cambridge, and worked in industry for 5 years before returning to academia in 2006. She was awarded the Lyell Medal of the Geological Society of London in 2020.
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