Reconstructing the origins and subsequent evolution of life is one of the most daunting tasks scientists are presently trying to resolve. Even one of the greatest scientific minds of our time, Charles Darwin, struggled to explain “…the sudden appearance of large animal fossils more than 500 million years ago.”
A theory of close correlation between oxygen levels and the appearance of large animals has been debated for many years, but failed to materialize due to the lack of hard evidence. Researchers such as paleontologist Guy Narbonne supported this theory for a long time and spent years gathering data from numerous excavation sites. An article from four years ago details Dr. Narbonne’s convictions and is attached at the end of this post.
A recent discovery of the oldest fossils of seaweed and possible animals that lived in the Ancient Ocean may finally provide hard evidence that would help resolve this dilemma once and for all. The discovery was made in what is presently a small village in Anhui Province of South China called Lantian. Approximately fifteen different “organisms with complex cell structures…” have been identified at this site. Most of the specimens retrieved are in great shape, which can be attributed to the fact that they were stored in black shale rocks.
According to the professor Shuhai Xiao, these fossils are an important part of the explanation for Cambrian Explosion because they “…represent moments of geological time during which free oxygen was available and conditions were favorable.” As a result of this brief episode of oxygen availability, these life forms were able to populate and diversify in the Lantian basin. However, subsequent oxygen disappearance put an abrupt end to these life forms.
More research and data analysis is necessary to draw further conclusions; however, this discovery may provide a connection between the origin of complex life forms and the presence of oxygen in the environment. This connection can be essential in solving a mystery of the sudden appearance of large animals and may fully explain the true source of Cambrian Explosion.
It should also be noted that one of the groups that supports the excavation progress is the Chinese Academy of Sciences. To learn more information about this foreign branch of the Science Academies, you can visit their website at: http://english.cas.cn/
Guy Narbonne’s convictions: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/12/061209083521.htm
Written by: Sergey Chikvashvili