(from the Greek palaios
(παλαιός), "old" and zoe
(ζωή), "life", meaning "ancient life") is the earliest of three geologic eras
of the Phanerozoic Eon
, spanning from roughly 541 to 252.17 million years ago
(ICS, 2004). It is the longest of the Phanerozoic eras, and is subdivided into six geologic periods
(from oldest to least old): the Cambrian
, and Permian
. The Paleozoic comes after the Neoproterozoic Era
of the Proterozoic Eon
, and is followed by the Mesozoic Era
The Paleozoic was a time of dramatic geological, climatic, and evolutionary change. The Cambrian Period witnessed the most rapid and widespread diversification of life in Earth's history, known as the Cambrian explosion, in which most modern phyla first appeared. Fish, arthropods, amphibians and reptiles all evolved during the Paleozoic. Life began in the ocean but eventually transitioned onto land, and by the late Paleozoic, it was dominated by various forms of organisms. Great forests of primitive plants covered the continents, many of which formed the coalbeds of Europe and eastern North America. Towards the end of the era, large, sophisticated reptiles were dominant and the first modern plants (conifers) appeared.
The Paleozoic Era ended with the largest mass extinction in Earth's history, the Permian–Triassic extinction event. The effects of this catastrophe were so devastating that it took life on land 30 million years into the Mesozoic to recover.
Selected article on the Paleozoic world and its legacies
is an anomalocarid
known from one specimen from the lower Devonian Hunsrück Slates
. Its discovery was astonishing because previously, anomalocaridids
were known only from exceptionally well-preserved fossil beds (Lagerstätten
) from the Cambrian, 100 million years earlier. Anomalocaridids, such as Anomalocaris
, were organisms thought to be distantly related to the arthropods. These creatures looked quite unlike any organism living today—they had segmentedexoskeletons
, with lateral lobes used for swimming, five large compound eyes, often set on stalks, and most strikingly, a pair of large, claw-like great appendages
that resembled headless shrimp. These appendages are thought to have passed food to the animal's mouth, which resembled a ring of pineapple.(see more...
Selected article on the Paleozoic in human science, culture and economics
The Bone Wars is the name given to a period of intense fossil speculation and discovery during the Gilded Age of American history, marked by a heated rivalry between Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh. The two paleontologists used underhanded methods to out-compete the other in the field, resorting to bribery, theft, and destruction of bones. The scientists also attacked each other in scientific publications, attempting to ruin the other's credibility and cut off his funding.
Originally colleagues who were civil to each other, Cope and Marsh became bitter enemies after several personal slights between them. Their pursuit of bones led them west to rich bone beds in Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming. From 1877 to 1892, both paleontologists used their wealth and influence to finance their own expeditions and to procure services and fossils from dinosaur hunters. By the end of the Bone Wars, both men exhausted their funds in fueling their intense rivalry.
Cope and Marsh were financially and socially ruined by their efforts to disgrace each other, but their contributions to science and the field of paleontology were massive; the scientists left behind tons of unopened boxes of fossils on their deaths. The feud between the two men led to over 142 new species of dinosaurs being discovered and described. Several historical books and fictional adaptations have also been published about this period of intense paleontological activity. (see more...)
Current Paleozoic FACs - none currently