Grotzinger, John Department of Earth, Atmosphere, and Space Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Last reviewed:May 2016
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A major division of geologic time spanning from 2500 to 541 million years ago (MYA). The beginning of Proterozoic time is an arbitrary boundary that roughly coincides with the transition from a tectonic style dominated by extensive recycling of the Earth's continental crust to a style characterized by preservation of the crust as stable continental platforms. The end of the Proterozoic coincides with the Precambrian-Cambrian boundary (see illustration), which is formally defined on the basis of the first appearance of diverse coelomate invertebrate animals. Proterozoic Earth history testifies to several remarkable biogeochemical events, including the formation and dispersal of the first supercontinent, the maturation of life and evolution of animals, the rise of atmospheric oxygen, and the decline of oceanic carbonate saturation (see table). Tremendous iron and lead-zinc mineral deposits occur in Proterozoic rocks, as do the first preserved accumulations of oil and gas. See also: Cambrian; Precambrian
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