Document Type

Technical Report

Publication Date


Publication Title

Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences


The beginning of the Phanerozoic saw two biological events that set the stage for all life that was to come: (a) the Cambrian Explosion (the appearance of most marine invertebrate phyla) and (b) the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event (GOBE), the subsequent substantial accumulation of marine biodiversity. Here, we examine the current state of understanding of marine environments and ecosystems from the late Ediacaran through the Early Ordovician, which spans this biologically important interval. Through a compilation and review of the existing geochemical, mineralogical, sedimentological, and fossil records, we argue that this interval was one of sustained low and variable marine oxygen levels that both led to animal extinction and fostered biodiversification events throughout the Cambrian and Early Ordovician. Therefore, marine ecosystems of this interval existed on the edge—with enough oxygen to sustain them but with the perennial risk of environmental stressors that could overwhelm them.


redox, authigenesis, ecosystems, Cambrian explosion, GOBE, extinction





Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Licensed to Smith College and distributed CC-BY under the Smith College Faculty Open Access Policy.


Peer reviewed accepted manuscript.

Included in

Geology Commons



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.