History of Life on Earth - Aditya K Panda, PhD

History of Life on Earth - Aditya K Panda, PhD

Geological Ages We can divide the history of life on Earth into six main stages: 1. 2. 3. Hadean Era: from the formation of the Earth about 4.6 billion years ago until about 4 billion years ago. The Earths surface is constantly bombarded by large objects which repeatedly melt the whole surface, making life impossible. Archean Era: from 4 to 2 billion years ago (very roughly). Origin of life, all life is single celled bacteria. No oxygen in the atmosphere. Proterozoic Era. 2 billion until 550 million years ago. Oxygen appears in the atmosphere and builds to approximately the present level of 21%. Eukaryotes appear. No hard parts: bone, teeth, shells, so very few fossils.

4. 5. 6. the first three eras are collectively called the PreCambrian era Paleozoic Era. 550 to 250 million years ago. Fossils appear, complex multicellular organisms, invasion of the land by plants and animals. Mesozoic Era. 250 to 65 million years ago. Appearance of mammals and flowering plants, but the land is dominated by dinosaurs (reptiles). Cenozoic Era. 65 million years ago until present. Land dominated by mammals and flowering plants. Our Story So Far

Earth forms 4.6 billion years ago Solid surface forms 4 billion years ago Life starts (?) 3.8 billion years ago Age of Bacteria Oxygen atmosphere develops 2 billion years ago. Eukaryotes develop. Edicarian life: 650 million years ago. First multicellular life, forms unknown today The Cambrian Explosion About 550 million years ago, there is a sudden appearance of large

numbers of multicellular organisms in the fossil record. Rocks older than this appear devoid of fossils (because they are too small to see, and because the multicellular organisms didnt have hard parts to preserve. This sudden appearance of fossils is called the Cambrian explosion. Most of the higher level taxa present today appeared at this time. Cause: a matter of speculation. Probably triggered by a mass extinction. Cambrian Life One prominent type: trilobites, which are extinct ancestors to the crustaceans and insects. Another: nautiloids: molluscs with straight

shells that later curled into the nautilus. Paleozoic Era The Paleozoic starts with the Cambrian explosion around 540 million years ago, and ends with the Permian Mass Extinction, about 250 million years ago. Most of Illinois is covered with sedimentary rock laid down during this period, when the area was covered by shallow seas. Large amounts of swamp vegetation from this period were converted into coal after being buried and

compressed. Several mass extinctions mark boundaries of eras within the Paleozoic. Early Paleozoic dominated by marine invertebrates. Appearance and evolution of fish during the middle period of the Paleozoic. Jaws developed, then bones. Major change in vertebrates: tetrapods (animals with 4 limbs) appear in the mid-Paleozoic. First as paired fins on fish, then later as legs. Amphibians and reptiles appeared. Reptiles were not common until the next era, the Mesozoic. Life evolved in the sea, but invaded the land during the late Paleozoic era. First plants (which needed to evolve the ability to stand upright and transport nutrients against gravity), then arthropods (insects, etc.) and vertebrates. At the end of the Paleozoic, the continents were joined into a single land mass, Pangea. Fish and Amphibians Permian Extinction

Permian extinction: The largest mass extinction event in Earths history. Large lava eruptions in Siberia followed by widespread glaciers. Volcanic dust in the atmosphere lowers temperature drastically. Possibly caused by an impact? May have triggered a buildup of hydrogen sulfide (produced by bacteria) in the atmosphere that displaced most of the oxygen. May have caused the release of vast quantities of methane from methane hydrate deposits on the ocean bottom. This greenhouse gas might have raised the Earths temperature enough to kill most life.

95% of all species die out. Mesozoic Era Lasted from 250 million years ago until 65 million years ago, ending with an asteroid impact in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. Age of the dinosaurs, reptiles that were the largest animals on land and in the sea during this period. Also major diversification of flowering plants late in the Mesozoic. Fragmentation of Pangea into many continents allowed speciation to occur in many

different habitats. Birds and mammals appear but arent prominent. Dinosaurs Extinction of the Dinosaurs All dinosaurs are thought to have become extinct 65 million years ago, when a large object collided with the Earth. It left a crater in the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico, with an iridium-rich layer of ash and clay deposited over the entire world. The collision threw enough dust into the atmosphere to block sunlight for several years, leading to the collapse of food chains and the deaths of most large animals. Apparently no animal lager than

about 50 pounds survived. This theory was proposed by Berkeley physicist Luis Alvarez and his son Walter, in 1980, and it was once very controversial. Older theories had the dinosaurs dying of genetic exhaustion or climatic shift, or predation by mammals. The older theories were not very satisfyinglots of hand waving and no very clear explanation for the sudden disappearance. The meteor theory has gained a lot by finding the iridium-rich clay layer everywhere on Earth that rocks of the proper age are exposed. Also, the Chixulub crater in Mexico is 100 miles in diameter and of the proper age. The idea that dust blocks photosynthesis comes from volcanic eruptions, such as Krakatoa in 1883 and Tambora in 1815. The latter caused the year without a summer, 1816, in New Englandfrosts as late as July, and the growing season cut in half. The global average temperature dropped by about 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Cenozoic Era

Started 65 million years ago, continues to present. Mammals become the dominant life form on land. An adaptive radiation that took advantage of the sudden loss of dinosaurs. Another large group evolves: the grasses. Adaptive radiation of birds and flowering plants. Fishes and reptiles dont change much during the Cenozoic. Geologically, continents that had been separated started to collide: Africa with Europe, North America with South America, India with Asia

Cenozoic Life Summary Earth forms 4.6 billion years ago Solid surface forms 4 billion years ago Life starts (?) 3.8 billion years ago Age of Bacteria: Archaean era Oxygen atmosphere develops 2 billion years ago. Eukaryotes develop. Proterozoic era

Edicarian life: 650 million years ago. First multicellular life, forms unknown today Cambrian explosion: most current life forms appear 550 million years ago Paleozoic era: 550 250 million years ago. Marine invertebrates, fishes, amphibians, invasion of the land. Coal formation. Permian mass extinction: 250 million years ago. 95% of all life dies; end of Paleozoic Mesozoic: 250-65 million years ago. Age of the dinosaurs (reptiles). Mammals, birds, and flowering plants appear Cretaceous mass extinction: asteroid hits the Earth, killing much of life, including the dinosaurs. Cenozoic era: 65 million years ago till present. Mammals dominant

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