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A New Progress of the Proterozoic Chronostratigraphical Division

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The Precambrian, an informal chronostratigraphical unit, represents the period of Earth history from the start of the Cambrian at ca. 541 Ma back to the formation of the planet at 4567 Ma. It was originally conceptualized as a “Cryptozoic Eon” that was contrasted with the Phanerozoic Eon from the Cambrian to the Quaternary, which is now known as the Precambrian and can be subdivided into three eons, Le., the Hadean, the Archean and the Proterozoic. The Precambrian is currently divided chronometrically into convenient boundaries, including for the establishment of the Proterozoic periods that were chosen to reflect large‐scale tectonic or sedimentary features (except for the Ediacaran Period). This Chronometrie arrangement might represent the second progress on the study of chronostratigraphy of the Precambrian after its separation from the Phanerozoic. Upon further study of the evolutionary history of the Precambrian Earth, applying new geodynamic and geobiological knowledge and information, a revised division of Precambrian time has led to the third conceptual progress on the study of Precambrian chronostratigraphy. In the current scheme, the Proterozoic Eon began at 2500 Ma, which is the approximate time by which most granite‐greenstone crust had formed, and can be subdivided into ten periods of typically 200 Ma duration grouped into three eras (except for the Ediacaran Period). Within this current scheme, the Ediacaran Period was ratified in 2004, the first period‐level addition to the geologic time scale in more than a century, an important advancement in stratigraphy. There are two main problems in the current scheme of Proterozoic chronostratigraphical division: the definition of the Archean‐Proterozoic boundary at 2500 Ma, which does not reflect a unique time of synchronous global change in tectonic style and does not correspond with a major change in lithology; the round number subdivision of the Proterozoic into several periods based on broad erogenic characteristics, which has not met with requests on the concept of modern stratigraphy, except for the Ediacaran Period. In the revised chronostratigraphic scheme for the Proterozoic, the Archean‐Proterozoic boundary is placed at the major change from a reducing early Earth to a cooler, more modern Earth characterized by the supercontinent cycle, a major change that occurred at ca. 2420 Ma. Thus, a revised Proterozoic Eon (2420–542 Ma) is envisaged to extend from the Archean‐Proterozoic boundary at ca. 2420 Ma to the end of the Ediacaran Period, Le., a period marked by the progressive rise in atmospheric oxygen, supercontinent cyclicity, and the evolution of more complex (eukaryoĆ¼c) life. As with the current Proterozoic Eon, a revised Proterozoic Eon based on chronostratigraphy is envisaged to consist of three eras (Paleoproterozoic, Mesoproterozoic, and Neoproterozoic), but the boundary ages for these divisions differ from their current ages and their subdivisions into periods would also differ from current practice. A scheme is proposed for the chronostratigraphic division of the Proterozoic, based principally on geodynamic and geobiological events and their expressions in the stratigraphie record. Importantly, this revision of the Proterozoic time scale will be of significant benefit to the community as a whole and will help to drive new research that will unveil new information about the history of our planet, since the Proterozoic is a significant connecting link between the preceding Precambrian and the following Phanerozoic.
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Keywords: Precambrian; Proterozoic Eon; chronostratigraphy; new progress

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2016

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