Darwin's dilemma: the realities of the Cambrian 'explosion'

Conway Morris, S. (2006) Darwin's dilemma: the realities of the Cambrian 'explosion'. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B, 361 (1470). pp. 1069-1083. DOI 10.1098/rstb.2006.1846

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Abstract

The Cambrian ‘explosion’ is widely regarded as one of the fulcrum points in the history of life, yet its origins and causes remain deeply controversial. New data from the fossil record, especially of Burgess Shale-type Lagerstätten, indicate, however, that the assembly of bodyplans is not only largely a Cambrian phenomenon, but can already be documented in fair detail. This speaks against a much more ancient origin of the metazoans, and current work is doing much to reconcile the apparent discrepancies between the fossil record, including the Ediacaran assemblages of latest Neoproterozoic age and molecular ‘clocks’. Hypotheses to explain the Cambrian ‘explosion’ continue to be generated, but the recurrent confusion of cause and effect suggests that the wrong sort of question is being asked. Here I propose that despite its step-like function this evolutionary event is the inevitable consequence of Earth and biospheric change.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 2006 AREP IA51 2006 P
Subjects: 04 - Palaeobiology
Divisions: 04 - Palaeobiology
Journal or Publication Title: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B
Volume: 361
Page Range: pp. 1069-1083
Identification Number: 10.1098/rstb.2006.1846
Depositing User: Sarah Humbert
Date Deposited: 16 Feb 2009 13:01
Last Modified: 23 Jul 2013 10:06
URI: http://eprints.esc.cam.ac.uk/id/eprint/212

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