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Causes of the Cambrian Explosion

Smith, M.P.; Harper, D.A.T.

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M.P. Smith


In the last decade, at least thirty individual hypotheses have been invoked to explain the Cambrian Explosion, ranging from starbursts in the Milky Way to intrinsic genomic reorganization and developmental patterning. It has been noted (1) that recent hypotheses fall into three categories: a) developmental/genetic, b) ecologic and c) abiotic environmental, with geochemical hypotheses forming an abundant and distinctive subset of the last. With a few notable exceptions, a significant majority of these hypotheses have been posited as stand-alone processes that constituted the principal causal modes of the Explosion. An additional challenge relates to the precise definition of the Explosion – is it the first appearance of animal groups, the diversification event, the emergence of marine ecosystems with ‘modern’ trophic structures, or all of these?


Smith, M., & Harper, D. (2013). Causes of the Cambrian Explosion. Science, 341(6152), 1355-1356.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Sep 1, 2013
Deposit Date Sep 18, 2013
Publicly Available Date Sep 19, 2013
Journal Science
Print ISSN 0036-8075
Electronic ISSN 1095-9203
Publisher American Association for the Advancement of Science
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 341
Issue 6152
Pages 1355-1356


Accepted Journal Article (456 Kb)

Copyright Statement
This is the author’s version of the work. It is posted here by permission of the AAAS for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Science, 341, 2013, 10.1126/science.1239450

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