Environmental Settings of the Cambrian Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

" (Sukumaran, 2004) Mutation is what results in the difference and may be utilized as a measure of the time that has elapsed since separation of the species from the common ancestor during evolution. This is a method of "inferring the divergence of time of clades from a common ancestor by means of gene/protein sequencing" and has been termed 'molecular dating'. The process is one in which there is a calibration of time in comparison to the Phanerozoic era fossil data and then expoliation is conducted for providing the estimation time for divergence of phyla. (Sukumaran, 2004; paraphrased) Indeed, if life did evolve as posited in the work of Charles Darwin then "the abrupt appearance of diversified life at the beginning of the Cambrian period was not explainable." (Sukumaran, 2004) However, Sukumaran explains that gradualism is not a central tenet to the idea that there has been an evolution of life forms through the process of natural selection and at the insistence of TH Huxley, Darwin essentially dropped the 'gradual' from his idea of evolution although he did have great hope that science would solve this problem. However, the "mystery remains." (Sukumaran, 2004)

V. Features of the Cambrian Explosion

It is related that the animals arising during the Cambrian explosion "represent unusual evolutionary mileposts." (Sukumaran, 2004) in fact, two-thirds of the phyla of kingdom Animalia is stated to be Cambrian animals and 37 of these are "present day animals, and almost all of them were established by the close of the Cambrian explosion, including all shelled invertebrates like mollusca, echinodermata and arthropoda. Thus, the evolution of major life forms as represented in the fossil record is not a gradual one: there was very little diversification of basic body plan in the Precambrian, but a sudden burst at the early Cambrian." (Sukumaran, 2004) Sukumaran notes that also remarkable in regards to the Cambrian explosion is "the remarkable morphological disparity and evolutionary stasis displayed by Cambrian fauna." (Sukumaran, 2004) it is important according to Sukumaran to differentiate "between diversity and disparity among animals" in that diversity 'refers to small-scale differences that are evident at the species level, whereas large-scale morphological differences among animals evident at taxonomically higher levels than species are generally referred to as disparity." (2004)

While there are about 37 basic body architectures of the Cambrian explosions "each of these body plans exhibit clear morphological differences or disparity from the others." (Sukumaran, 2004) Specifically, these body plans providing a definition for each phylum "do not grade into one another over the course of geological history but maintain their morphological isolation or disparity from all other phyla" and furthermore each of this "also exhibit a remarkable stability or statis during their time on earth, meaning that after their appearance they maintained their characteristic body architecture without any evidences of alteration." (Sukumaran, 2004) Another feature of the Cambrian explosion noted by Sukumaran is the "quantum jump in biological complexity" because when the Cambrian explosion is compared to the "small increase in complexity that occurred between the origin of life ~3.85 Ga ago and the first appearance of multicellular algae (1 Ga ago), the Cambrian explosion is a huge increase in biological complexity." (2004)

VI. Theories Attempting to Explain the Cambrian Explosion Examined

Sukumaran also relates that the missing artifact theory does not hold up to close inspection because "the lower Cambrian sediments near Chengjian, China have preserved soft tissues and several organs such as eyes, stomachs, digestive glands, sensory organs and nerves, besides fossilized embryos..." all of which are observations that "shake the very foundations of the artifact theory." (2004) Sukumaran states that the theory of 'deep divergence' is one that attempts to explains the possibility that the metazoans "had an invisible evolutions history in the Precambrian" which failed to be recorded in the fossil record. There are however, several shortcomings stated to exist in regards to this theory: (1) an extensive period of soft-bodied evolution is questionable from a paleontological point-of-view. Preservation of numerous soft-bodied Cambrian animals as well as Precambrian embryos and microorganisms undermines the deep divergence hypothesis; (2) Subsequent molecular estimates by Ayala and colleagues (1998) are in agreement with paleontological evidence, questioning the deep divergence hypothesis; (3) the proteins that Wray and colleagues have analyzed are not involved in the development of animal body plans and therefore they would not have played any role in the origin of new phyla; (4) Another major problem with the deep divergence hypothesis is that the protein clock does not tick at a constant rate. Unlike radiometric clocks widely used in dating rocks, molecular clocks depend upon both biological and environmental factors. For instance, different genes in different clades evolve at different rates; and (5) Above all the molecular clock is calibrated with Phanerozoic (

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