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Prehistoric underwater life in the Silurian Period by Alena Hovorkova
What is the Paleozoic Era?


        The Paleozoic Era, meaning 'Ancient Life' in Greek, stretched from 542- 251 Ma, and can be characterized as a time when the Earth was teeming with aquatic life. Following the break up of the ancient super continent Pannotia, epicontinental seas formed between the continental fragments. Life bloomed in these shallow seas during the Cambrian Explosion as early organisms exploited ecological niches.


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Timescale depicting the chronological breakdown of the Paleozoic Era (by M. Soukup, 2019)

        Life bloomed over the next 100 million years, leading to swampy forests growing on once rocky and barren land, and amphibians taking the first steps out of the water. It was during this facinating time that bony and jawed fish, such as the Dunkelosteus (right) swam through the seas. 

     This diversity in aquatic organisms came to an end during the Permian- Triassic Extinction, during which time 95% of aquatic species were wiped out. The exact cause is still unknown, but one hypothesis suggests that an exceptional occurrence of volcanic activity clouded the atmosphere and acidified the oceans, decimating the life within it.


        This extinction was bittersweet; as you can see in the next era, the Mesozoic, the niches left by the organisms of the Paleozoic gave way to the diversification of an entirely new variety of plant and animal life.

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Artist's reconstruction of the Dunkleosteus swimming in the Devonian ocean alongside early sharks (by April Lawton)

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