Oxygen minimum zones in the early Cambrian ocean

27 Apr 2018

The relationship between the evolution of early animal 26 communities and oceanic oxygen levels remains unclear. In particular, uncertainty persists in reconstructions of redox conditions during the pivotal early Cambrian (541-510 million years ago, Ma), where conflicting datasets from deeper marine settings suggest either ocean anoxia or fully oxygenated conditions. By coupling geochemical palaeoredox proxies with a record of organic-walled fossils from exceptionally well-defined successions of the early Cambrian Baltic Basin, we provide evidence for the early establishment of modern-type oxygen minimum zones (OMZs). Both inner- and outer shelf environments were pervasively oxygenated, whereas mid-depth settings were characterized by spatially oscillating anoxia. As such, conflicting redox signatures recovered from individual sites most likely derive from sampling bias, whereby anoxic conditions represent mid-shelf environments with higher productivity. This picture of a spatially restricted anoxic wedge contrasts with prevailing models of globally stratified oceans, offering a more nuanced and realistic account of the Proterozoic-Phanerozoic ocean transition.