The Cambrian and Controversial Creation: Animal Evolution at Warp-Speed
The Cambrian Explosion is one of the largest landmark evolutionary events in Earth’s history. Within the span of 20 million years or less, nearly all of the animal phyla we know today appeared in the fossil record-an unprecedented occurrence. This past summer, I worked with the MHC Paleontology Department to analyze the morphology of newly-interpreted Early Cambrian echinoderm fossils, ultimately aiming to offer an explanation for how echinoderms evolved into pentaradial (5-part) symmetry. However, the research’s importance extends far beyond the history of the phylum Echinodermata, highlighting ongoing debates about the tempo and mode of evolution. The resolution of this debate will have broad implications for all areas of investigation.