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Proterozoic Eon
2500 - 542 million years ago
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Scale:
Millions of years
Lower Proterozoic Stromatolites from Bolivia, South America

The Proterozoic (pronounced /ˌproʊtərəˈzoʊɪk/) is a geological eon representing a period before the first abundant complex life on Earth. The name Proterozoic comes from the Greek "earlier life". The Proterozoic Eon extended from 2500 Ma to 542.0 ± 1.0 Ma (million years ago), and is the most recent part of the old, informally named ‘Precambrian’ time.

The Proterozoic consists of 3 geologic eras, from oldest to youngest:

The well-identified events were:

Contents

The Proterozoic record

The geologic record of the Proterozoic is much better than that for the preceding Archean. In contrast to the deep-water deposits of the Archean, the Proterozoic features many strata that were laid down in extensive shallow epicontinental seas; furthermore, many of these rocks are less metamorphosed than Archean-age ones, and plenty are unaltered.[1] Study of these rocks shows that the eon featured massive, rapid continental accretion (unique to the Proterozoic), supercontinent cycles, and wholly-modern orogenic activity.[2]

The first known glaciations occurred during the Proterozoic; one began shortly after the beginning of the eon, while there were at least four during the Neoproterozoic, climaxing with the Snowball Earth of the Varangian glaciation.[3]

The buildup of oxygen

One of the most important events of the Proterozoic was the gathering up of oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere. Though oxygen was undoubtedly released by photosynthesis well back in Archean times, it could not build up to any significant degree until chemical sinks — unoxidized sulfur and iron — had been filled; until roughly 2.3 billion years ago, oxygen was probably only 1% to 2% of its current level.[4] Banded iron formations, which provide most of the world's iron ore, were also a prominent chemical sink; most accumulation ceased after 1.9 billion years ago, either due to an increase in oxygen or a more thorough mixing of the oceanic water column.[5]

Red beds, which are colored by hematite, indicate an increase in atmospheric oxygen after 2 billion years ago; they are not found in older rocks.[5] The oxygen buildup was probably due to two factors: a filling of the chemical sinks, and an increase in carbon burial, which sequestered organic compounds that would have otherwise been oxidized by the atmosphere.[6]

Paleogeography

The Mackenzie dike swarm in Canada's Canadian Shield is the largest known dike swarm on Earth, and was a source for significant massive flood basalt eruptions throughout the Proterozoic period. The source for the Mackenzie dike swarm is thought to have been a mantle plume center called the Mackenzie hotspot.[7]

Proterozoic life

The first advanced single-celled and multi-cellular life roughly coincides with the start of the accumulation of free oxygen; this may have been due to an increase in the oxidized nitrates that eukaryotes use, as opposed to cyanobacteria.[6] It was also during the Proterozoic that the first symbiotic relationships between mitochondria (for nearly all eukaryotes) and chloroplasts (for plants and some protists only) and their hosts evolved.[8]

The blossoming of eukaryotes such as acritarchs did not preclude the expansion of cyanobacteria; in fact, stromatolites reached their greatest abundance and diversity during the Proterozoic, peaking roughly 1.2 billion years ago.[9]

Classically, the boundary between the Proterozoic and the Phanerozoic eons was set at the base of the Cambrian period when the first fossils of animals including trilobites and archeocyathids appeared. In the second half of the 20th century, a number of fossil forms have been found in Proterozoic rocks, but the upper boundary of the Proterozoic has remained fixed at the base of the Cambrian, which is currently placed at 542 Ma.

See also

References

  1. ^ Stanley, Steven M. (1999). Earth System History. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company. pp. 315. ISBN 0-7167-2882-6. 
  2. ^ Stanley, 315-18, 329-32
  3. ^ Stanley, 320-1, 325
  4. ^ Stanley, 323
  5. ^ a b Stanley, 324
  6. ^ a b Stanley, 325
  7. ^ Lunar and Planetary Science XXVIII
  8. ^ Stanley 321-2
  9. ^ Stanley, 321-3

External links

Preceded by Archean Eon 2.5 Ga - Proterozoic Eon - 542 Ma Followed by Phanerozoic Eon
2.6 Ga - Paleoproterozoic Era - 1.6 Ga 1.6 Ga - Mesoproterozoic Era - 1.0 Ga 1.0 Ga - Neoproterozoic Era - 542 Ma
Siderian Rhyacian Orosirian Statherian Calymmian Ectasian Stenian Tonian Cryogenian Ediacaran

Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Contents

English

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Pronunciation

Adjective

Proterozoic (not comparable)

Positive
Proterozoic

Comparative
not comparable

Superlative
none (absolute)

  1. (geology) Of, or relating to the geologic eon from about 2,500 to 570 million years ago; comprises the Paleoproterozoic, Mesoproterozoic and Neoproterozoic eras; marked by the build up of oxygen in the atmosphere and the emergence of primitive multicellular life.

Proper noun

Singular
Proterozoic

Plural
-

Proterozoic

  1. (geology) The Proterozoic eon.

Translations

See also


Simple English

File:Proterozoic
Lower Proterozoic Stromatolites from Bolivia, South America (polished vertical section through rock)

The Proterozoic eon comes before the Phanerozoic. It was a period before the first abundant complex life on Earth. The name Proterozoic comes from the Greek "earlier life". The Proterozoic Eon extended from 2500 million years ago to 542mya, and is the most recent part of the former Precambrian.

The Proterozoic consists of 3 geologic eras, from oldest to youngest:

  • Paleoproterozoic: 2500 to 1600 million years ago
  • Mesoproterozoic: 1600 to 1000 mya
  • Neoproterozoic: 1000 to 542 mya

The well-identified events were:

Study of these rocks shows that the eon featured massive, rapid continental accretion (unique to the Proterozoic), supercontinent cycles, and mountain building.[3]

References

  1. Clarkson E.N.K. 1998. Invertbrate palaeontology and evolution. Blackwell, Oxford.
  2. Levin, Harold L. 2005. The Earth through time. 8th ed, Wiley, N.Y. Chapter 9: The Proterozoic: dawn of a more modern world.
  3. Stanley, Steven M. 1999. Earth system history. Freeman, N.Y.. ISBN 0-7167-2882-6.








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