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The boring billion, a slingshot for complex life of earth

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 17:47 authored by Indrani MukherjeeIndrani Mukherjee, Ross LargeRoss Large, Stephen CorkreyStephen Corkrey, Leonid Danyushevsky
The period 1800 to 800 Ma (“Boring Billion”) is believed to mark a delay in the evolution of complex life, primarily due to low levels of oxygen in the atmosphere. Earlier studies highlight the remarkably flat C, Cr isotopes and low trace element trends during the so-called stasis, caused by prolonged nutrient, climatic, atmospheric and tectonic stability. In contrast, we suggest a first-order variability of bio-essential trace element availability in the oceans by combining systematic sampling of the Proterozoic rock record with sensitive geochemical analyses of marine pyrite by LA-ICP-MS technique. We also recall that several critical biological evolutionary events, such as the appearance of eukaryotes, origin of multicellularity & sexual reproduction, and the first major diversification of eukaryotes (crown group) occurred during this period. Therefore, it appears possible that the period of low nutrient trace elements (1800–1400 Ma) caused evolutionary pressures which became an essential trigger for promoting biological innovations in the eukaryotic domain. Later periods of stress-free conditions, with relatively high nutrient trace element concentration, facilitated diversification. We propose that the “Boring Billion” was a period of sequential stepwise evolution and diversification of complex eukaryotes, triggering evolutionary pathways that made possible the later rise of micro-metazoans and their macroscopic counterparts.


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Scientific Reports



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School of Natural Sciences


Nature Publishing Group

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United Kingdom

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Copyright 2018 The Authors Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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  • Open

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