History of the Universe

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Cambrian Period 542 to 488 mya


The Gondwana supercontinents was assembled during the Cambrian Period, named after the Latin name for Wales.

Life developed rapidly from the organisms which had already appeared during the preceding Ediacarian Period into a wide variety of forms, some resembling modern animals. The first molluscs and arthropods appeared.

Primitive fish might have appeared now too, but we will leave discussion of fish until the next period, the Ordovician, when they were common.

Continents 550 mya

Earth 550 mya. Click here for key. Previous image. Next image. Image courtesy of TimeTrek

The Cambrian Period saw the assembly of the Gondwana supercontinent.


This supercontinent was made up of most modern southern continents, including South America, Africa, India, Australia, Madagascar and Antarctica. It existed from around about 500 to 200 mya. These continents are now widely separated. What evidence is there that they were once joined together?

    the occurrence of tillites (glacial deposits) of 286 mya (the Permo-Carboniferous)

    similar plants and animal fossils are found in them but not in the Northern Hemisphere, in particular the widely distributed seed fern Glossopteris

The rocks that contain this evidence are called the Karoo (Karroo) System in South Africa, the Gondwana System in India, and the Santa Catharina System in South America.

Continents 500 mya

Earth 500 mya. Click here for key. Previous image. Next image. Image courtesy of TimeTrek

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