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The Cambrian Period records one of the most extraordinary transitions in the history of life. Beginning as simple sponges more than 635 million years ago, the earliest animals evolved into a diverse marine fauna over the course of 100 million years. In The Cambrian Explosion: The Construction of Animal Biodiversity, Erwin and Valentine synthesize research from many fields to explain why there was such remarkable novelty of animal forms.
The Cambrian explosion is known for a wide variety of bizarre and novel animal forms. This book captures some of the creatures in full color. Illustrator Quade Paul, in close collaboration with Douglas Erwin, rendered the critters as accurately as possible given what we know today.
Historical and Geological Settings
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Geological Context of Ediacaran and Cambrian Events
Chapter 3: The Environmental Context of the Ediacaran and Early Cambrian
The Record of Early Metazoan Evolution
Chapter 4: The Metazoan Tree of Life
Chapter 5: Dawn of Animals: The Ediacara Biota
Chapter 6: Metazoan Architectures of the Cambrian Explosion
Chapter 7: The Construction of Metazoan Ecosystems
Chapter 8: The Evolution of the Metazoan Genome and the Cambrian Explosion
Evolutionary Dynamics of the Cambrian Explosion
Chapter 9: Ghostly Ancestors
Chapter 10: Constructing the Cambrian
Appendix: First Appearances of Major Metazoan clades in the Fossil Record
Douglas Erwin is a paleobiologist with interests in evolutionary innovations and the end-Permian mass extinction and subsequent biotic recovery, among other areas. Recent field projects have taken him to China, South Africa, and Canada. He is Senior Scientist and Curator in the Department of Paleobiology at the National Museum of Natural History and a professor at the Santa Fe Institute. He is the author of six books, including most recently Extinction: How Life on Earth Nearly Ended 250 Million Years Ago (Princeton University Press, 2005).
Jim Valentine has spent the last 50 years trying to understand the paleoecological and macroevolutionary principles that have shaped the fossil record of the marine biosphere. He has found the earliest animal records to be a particular challenge to such interpretation and a delight to investigate. He is active Professor Emeritus of Integrative Biology at the University of California, and the author of many books, including most recently On the Origin of Phyla (University of Chicago Press, 2004).
"The Cambrian Explosion is magnificent. Recent relevant genetic and ecological information is judiciously integrated with up-to-date and profoundly analyzed geological and paleontological knowledge. Well-written and beautifully illustrated, The Cambrian Explosion is a jewel that will surely remain for years to come the gold standard in the field."
– Francisco J. Ayala is University Professor and Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of California, Irvine
"The Cambrian explosion of life established the beginnings of animal diversity as we know it. Here two leading authorities explore the nature of the explosion – with marvelous new illustrations of the forms that evolved – but also the drivers (the interplay of evolution, environment and ecology) and how the evidence of Cambrian fossils informs our understanding of the subsequent evolution of biodiversity on our planet. This is a book for anyone who is curious about the history of life, and wants an authoritative and accessible up-to-date account of the Cambrian explosion, the event that established the beginnings of animal diversity as we know it. This book will appeal to both the general reader and the student of the history of life with its exciting images of life during the Ediacaran Period, before the Cambrian explosion, and of the animals represented in world famous Cambrian deposits like the Burgess Shale."
– Derek E.G. Briggs is G. Evelyn Hutchinson Professor of Geology and Geophysics and Director, Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University