The not-so-boring billion

Tim Lenton and Andrew Watson

in Revolutions that made the Earth

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780199587049
Published online December 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191775031 | DOI:
The not-so-boring billion

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This chapter addresses the problem of why eukaryote evolution proceeded so slowly through the so-called ‘boring billion’ and then took off at the end of the Eon. To fully understand eukaryote development, it is vital that we know the condition of the Earth's oceans and atmosphere during the Proterozoic, and how they were changing. Central to this story is the history of atmospheric oxygen, and especially the oxygenation state of the ocean, where eukaryotes were evolving. The conventional view is that eukaryotes evolved in an oxygenated environment, because the great majority of eukaryotes need oxygen and those that do not are thought to have subsequently adapted to an oxygen-free life. In this view, the critical step in eukaryote evolution must have occurred after the origin of oxygenic photosynthesis, likely after the Great Oxidation, when oxygen became widespread.

Keywords: eukaryote evolution; boring billion; atmospheric oxygen; oxygenated environment; oxygen-free life

Chapter.  7449 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Physics

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