2500–1600 million years ago
The Paleoproterozoic Era ( /-/;, also spelled Palaeoproterozoic), spanning the time period from (2.5–1.6 Ga), is the first of the three sub-divisions (eras) of the Proterozoic Eon. The Paleoproterozoic is also the longest era of the Earth's geological history. It was during this era that the continents first stabilized.
Paleontological evidence suggests that the Earth's rotational rate during this era resulted in 20-hour days ~1.8 billion years ago, implying a total of ~450 days per year.
Before the enormous increase in atmospheric oxygen, almost all existing lifeforms were anaerobic organisms, i.e., their metabolism was based upon a form of cellular respiration that did not require oxygen. Free oxygen in large amounts is toxic to most anaerobic organisms. Consequently, the majority of the anaerobic lifeforms on Earth died when the atmospheric free-oxygen levels soared in an extinction event called the Great Oxidation Event. The only lifeforms that survived were either those resistant to the oxidizing and poisonous effects of oxygen, or those sequestered in oxygen-free environments. The sudden increase of atmospheric free oxygen and the ensuing extinction of the vulnerable lifeforms is widely considered to be the one of the first and most significant mass extinctions in the history of the Earth.
Many crown node eukaryotes (from which the modern-day eukaryotic lineages would have arisen)—or the divergences that imply them between various groups of eukaryotes—have been ostensibly dated to around the time of the Paleoproterozoic era. While there is some debate as to the exact period at which Eukaryotes evolved, current understanding places it somewhere in this period.
During this era, the earliest global-scale continent-continent collision belts developed.
These continent and mountain building events are represented by the 2.1–2.0 Ga Trans-Amazonian and Eburnean orogens in South America and West Africa; the ~2.0 Ga Limpopo Belt in southern Africa; the 1.9–1.8 Ga Trans-Hudson, Penokean, Taltson–Thelon, Wopmay, Ungava and Torngat orogens in North America, the 1.9–1.8 Ga Nagssugtoqidian Orogen in Greenland; the 1.9–1.8 Ga Kola–Karelia, Svecofennian, Volhyn-Central Russian, and Pachelma orogens in Baltica (Eastern Europe); the 1.9–1.8 Ga Akitkan Orogen in Siberia; the ~1.95 Ga Khondalite Belt and ~1.85 Ga Trans-North China Orogen in North China.
These continental collision belts are interpreted as having resulted from one or more 2.0–1.8 Ga global-scale collision events that then led to the assembly of a Proterozoic supercontinent named Columbia or Nuna.
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