The Fossil History of Australia

Pre-cambrian

(also called Cryptozoic)

(4,800 to 590 million years ago)

This is an immense period of time, which saw the land and water began to form, during periods of heating and cooling. The Earth experienced several ice ages, which covered Australia in ice. During the Cryptozoic era, an atmosphere developed over the Earth.

Previously, no traces were found of life from this period, and it was called Cryptozoic, meaning "hidden" life. More recently, microfossils, which need to be seen with a microscope, have been detected which are simple forms of algae and bacteria.

These microfossils have been discovered to be part of assemblages called stomatolites and these are still found in Western Australia.

One of the earliest known organisms were called Prokaryotes, which reproduced by cell division into identical cells. Later in this period, organisms of single cells diversified into multi-cellular life, but as these had no hard shell or backbone, there is only limited record of their existence.

A most significant development during the Cryptozoic era was the development of cells with a nucleus, which meant that genetic information, DNA, was then capable of transmitting from one generation to the next. The development of sexual reproduction, then allowed future generations the endless possibility of variations which give life the diversity we see today.

At the end of this period, Australia comprised mainly of the areas we know as Western Australia, South Australia, and the Northern Territory. Eastern Australia was under sea and emerged over the next 570 million years to form the continent we are familiar with today.

Today, we still have blue-green algae, sea jellies, bacteria and simple worms, which trace their origins directly back to the Pre-Cambrian period.

 
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