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Short description: First era of the Proterozoic Eon
2500 – 1600 Ma
Proposed redefinition(s)2420–541 Ma
Gradstein et al., 2012
Proposed subdivisionsOxygenian Period, 2420–2250 Ma

Gradstein et al., 2012
Jatulian/Eukaryian Period, 2250–2060 Ma
Gradstein et al., 2012
Columbian Period, 2060–1780 Ma

Gradstein et al., 2012
Name formalityFormal
Alternate spelling(s)Palaeoproterozoic
Usage information
Celestial bodyEarth
Regional usageGlobal (ICS)
Time scale(s) usedICS Time Scale
Chronological unitEra
Stratigraphic unitErathem
Time span formalityFormal
Lower boundary definitionDefined Chronometrically
Lower boundary GSSPN/A
GSSP ratifiedN/A
Upper boundary definitionDefined Chronometrically
Upper boundary GSSPN/A
GSSP ratifiedN/A

The Paleoproterozoic Era ( /pæliˌprtərəˈzɪk-/;[1][2], also spelled Palaeoproterozoic), spanning the time period from 2,500 to 1,600 million years ago (2.5–1.6 Ga), is the first of the three sub-divisions (eras) of the Proterozoic Eon. The Paleoproterozoic is also the longest era of the Earth's geological history. It was during this era that the continents first stabilized.

Paleontological evidence suggests that the Earth's rotational rate ~1.8 billion years ago equated to 20-hour days, implying a total of ~450 days per year.[3]

Paleoproterozoic atmosphere

Before the enormous increase in atmospheric oxygen, almost all existing lifeforms were anaerobic organisms, whose metabolism was based upon a form of cellular respiration that did not require oxygen. Free oxygen in large amounts is toxic to most anaerobic organisms. Consequently, the majority of the anaerobic lifeforms on Earth died when the atmospheric free-oxygen levels soared in an extinction event called the Great Oxidation Event. The only lifeforms that survived were either those resistant to the oxidizing and poisonous effects of oxygen, or those sequestered in oxygen-free environments. The sudden increase of atmospheric free oxygen and the ensuing extinction of the vulnerable lifeforms is widely considered to be one of the first and most significant mass extinctions in the history of the Earth.[4]

Emergence of Eukarya

Many crown node eukaryotes (from which the modern-day eukaryotic lineages would have arisen) have been approximately dated to around the time of the Paleoproterozoic Era.[5][6] While there is some debate as to the exact time at which eukaryotes evolved,[7][8] current understanding places it somewhere in this era.[9][10]

Geological events

During this era, the earliest global-scale continent-continent collision belts developed. The associated continent and mountain building events are represented by the 2.1–2.0 Ga Trans-Amazonian and Eburnean orogens in South America and West Africa; the ~2.0 Ga Limpopo Belt in southern Africa; the 1.9–1.8 Ga Trans-Hudson, Penokean, Taltson–Thelon, Wopmay, Ungava and Torngat orogens in North America, the 1.9–1.8 Ga Nagssugtoqidian Orogen in Greenland; the 1.9–1.8 Ga Kola–Karelia, Svecofennian, Volhyn-Central Russian, and Pachelma orogens in Baltica (Eastern Europe); the 1.9–1.8 Ga Akitkan Orogen in Siberia; the ~1.95 Ga Khondalite Belt; the ~1.85 Ga Trans-North China Orogen in North China; and the 1.8-1.6 Ga Yavapai and Mazatzal orogenies in southern North America.

That pattern of collision belts supports the formation of a Proterozoic supercontinent named Columbia or Nuna.[11][12] That continental collisions suddenly led to mountain building at large scale is interpreted as having resulted from increased biomass and carbon burial during and after the Great Oxidation Event: Subducted carbonaceous sediments are hypothesized to have lubricated compressive deformation and led to crustal thickening.[13]

Felsic volcanism in what is now northern Sweden led to the formation of the Kiruna and Arvidsjaur porphyries.[14]

The lithospheric mantle of Patagonia's oldest blocks formed.[15]

See also


  1. "palaeo-". Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press.  "Proterozoic". Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. 
  2. "Proterozoic". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. 
  3. Pannella, Giorgio (1972). "Paleontological evidence on the Earth's rotational history since early precambrian". Astrophysics and Space Science 16 (2): 212. doi:10.1007/BF00642735. Bibcode1972Ap&SS..16..212P. 
  4. Margulis, Lynn; Sagan, Dorion (1997-05-29) (in en). Microcosmos: Four Billion Years of Microbial Evolution. University of California Press. ISBN 9780520210646. 
  5. Hedges, S Blair; Chen, Hsiong; Kumar, Sudhir; Wang, Daniel YC; Thompson, Amanda S; Watanabe, Hidemi (2001-09-12). "A genomic timescale for the origin of eukaryotes". BMC Evolutionary Biology 1: 4. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-1-4. ISSN 1471-2148. PMID 11580860. 
  6. Hedges, S Blair; Blair, Jaime E; Venturi, Maria L; Shoe, Jason L (2004-01-28). "A molecular timescale of eukaryote evolution and the rise of complex multicellular life". BMC Evolutionary Biology 4: 2. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-4-2. ISSN 1471-2148. PMID 15005799. 
  7. Rodríguez-Trelles, Francisco; Tarrío, Rosa; Ayala, Francisco J. (2002-06-11). "A methodological bias toward overestimation of molecular evolutionary time scales". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 99 (12): 8112–8115. doi:10.1073/pnas.122231299. ISSN 0027-8424. PMID 12060757. Bibcode2002PNAS...99.8112R. 
  8. Stechmann, Alexandra; Cavalier-Smith, Thomas (2002-07-05). "Rooting the eukaryote tree by using a derived gene fusion". Science 297 (5578): 89–91. doi:10.1126/science.1071196. ISSN 1095-9203. PMID 12098695. Bibcode2002Sci...297...89S. 
  9. Ayala, Francisco José; Rzhetsky, Andrey; Ayala, Francisco J. (1998-01-20). "Origin of the metazoan phyla: Molecular clocks confirm paleontological estimates". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 95 (2): 606–611. doi:10.1073/pnas.95.2.606. ISSN 0027-8424. PMID 9435239. Bibcode1998PNAS...95..606J. 
  10. Wang, D Y; Kumar, S; Hedges, S B (1999-01-22). "Divergence time estimates for the early history of animal phyla and the origin of plants, animals and fungi.". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 266 (1415): 163–171. doi:10.1098/rspb.1999.0617. PMID 10097391. 
  11. Zhao, Guochun; Cawood, Peter A; Wilde, Simon A; Sun, Min (2002). "Review of global 2.1–1.8 Ga orogens: implications for a pre-Rodinia supercontinent". Earth-Science Reviews 59 (1–4): 125–162. doi:10.1016/S0012-8252(02)00073-9. Bibcode2002ESRv...59..125Z. 
  12. Zhao, Guochun; Sun, M.; Wilde, Simon A.; Li, S.Z. (2004). "A Paleo-Mesoproterozoic supercontinent: assembly, growth and breakup". Earth-Science Reviews 67 (1–2): 91–123. doi:10.1016/j.earscirev.2004.02.003. Bibcode2004ESRv...67...91Z. 
  13. John Parnell, Connor Brolly: Increased biomass and carbon burial 2 billion years ago triggered mountain building. Nature Communications Earth & Environment, 2021, doi:10.1038/s43247-021-00313-5 (Open Access).
  14. Lundqvist, Thomas (2009) (in sv). Porfyr i Sverige: En geologisk översikt. pp. 24–27. ISBN 978-91-7158-960-6. 
  15. Schilling, Manuel Enrique; Carlson, Richard Walter; Tassara, Andrés; Conceição, Rommulo Viveira; Berotto, Gustavo Walter; Vásquez, Manuel; Muñoz, Daniel; Jalowitzki, Tiago et al. (2017). "The origin of Patagonia revealed by Re-Os systematics of mantle xenoliths". Precambrian Research 294: 15–32. doi:10.1016/j.precamres.2017.03.008. Bibcode2017PreR..294...15S. 

External links