Biology » Introduction to Animal Diversity » The Evolutionary History of the Animal Kingdom

Summarizing the Evolutionary History of the Animal Kingdom

Summary

The most rapid diversification and evolution of animal species in all of history occurred during the Cambrian period of the Paleozoic Era, a phenomenon known as the Cambrian explosion. Until recently, scientists believed that there were only very few tiny and simplistic animal species in existence before this period. However, recent fossil discoveries have revealed that additional, larger, and more complex animals existed during the Ediacaran period, and even possibly earlier, during the Cryogenian period. Still, the Cambrian period undoubtedly witnessed the emergence of the majority of animal phyla that we know today, although many questions remain unresolved about this historical phenomenon.

The remainder of the Paleozoic Era is marked by the growing appearance of new classes, families, and species, and the early colonization of land by certain marine animals. The evolutionary history of animals is also marked by numerous major extinction events, each of which wiped out a majority of extant species. Some species of most animal phyla survived these extinctions, allowing the phyla to persist and continue to evolve into species that we see today.

Glossary

Cambrian explosion

time during the Cambrian period (542–488 million years ago) when most of the animal phyla in existence today evolved

Cryogenian period

geologic period (850–630 million years ago) characterized by a very cold global climate

Ediacaran period

geological period (630–542 million years ago) when the oldest definite multicellular organisms with tissues evolved

mass extinction

event that wipes out the majority of species within a relatively short geological time period

[Attributions and Licenses]


This is a lesson from the tutorial, Introduction to Animal Diversity and you are encouraged to log in or register, so that you can track your progress.

Log In

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!