The Neoproterozoic Era is the unit of geologic time
from 1,000 million to 541 million years ago.
It is the last era of the Precambrian
Supereon and the Proterozoic
Eon; it is subdivided into the Tonian
, and Ediacaran
Periods. It is preceded by the Mesoproterozoic
era and succeeded by the Paleozoic
era of the Phanerozoic
The most severe glaciation
known in the geologic record occurred during the Cryogenian, when ice sheet
s may have reached the equator
and formed a "Snowball Earth
The earliest fossils of complex multicellular life
are found in the Ediacaran period
. These organisms make up the Ediacaran biota
, including the oldest definitive animal
s in the fossil record.
According to Rino and co-workers, the sum of the continental crust
formed in the Pan-African orogeny
and the Grenville orogeny
makes the Neoproterozoic the period of Earth's history that has produced most continental crust.
At the onset of the Neoproterozoic the supercontinent Rodinia
, which had assembled during the late Mesoproterozoic, straddled the equator. During the Tonian, rifting commenced which broke Rodinia into a number of individual land masses.
Possibly as a consequence of the low-latitude position of most continents, several large-scale glacial events occurred during the Neoproterozoic Era including the Sturtian
glaciations of the Cryogenian Period.
These glaciations are believed to have been so severe that there were ice sheets at the equator—a state known as the "Snowball Earth
Neoproterozoic time is subdivided into the Tonian
(1000–720 Ma), Cryogenian
(720–635 Ma) and Ediacaran
(635–541 Ma) periods.
Russian regional timescale
In the regional timescale of Russia, the Tonian and Cryogenian correspond to the Late Riphean
; the Ediacaran corresponds to the Early to middle Vendian.
Russian geologists divide the Neoproterozoic of Siberia
into the Mayanian (from 1000 to 850 Ma) followed by the Baikalian (from 850 to 650 Ma, loosely equivalent to the Cryogenian).
The idea of the Neoproterozoic Era was introduced in the 1960s. Nineteenth-century paleontologists set the start of multicellular
life at the first appearance of hard-shelled arthropods
s and archeocyathid sponges
at the beginning of the Cambrian
Period. In the early 20th century, paleontologists started finding fossils of multicellular animals that predated the Cambrian. A complex fauna was found in South West Africa
in the 1920s but was inaccurately dated. Another fauna was found in South Australia in the 1940s, but it was not thoroughly examined until the late 1950s. Other possible early animal fossils were found in Russia, England, Canada, and elsewhere (see Ediacaran biota
). Some were determined to be pseudofossil
s, but others were revealed to be members of rather complex biotas that remain poorly understood. At least 25 regions worldwide have yielded metazoan
fossils older than the classical Precambrian–Cambrian boundary (which is currently dated at ).
A few of the early animals appear possibly to be ancestors of modern animals. Most fall into ambiguous groups of frond-like organisms; discoids that might be holdfasts for stalked organisms ("medusoids"); mattress-like forms; small calcareous tubes; and armored animals of unknown provenance.
These were most commonly known as Vendian biota
until the formal naming of the Period, and are currently known as Ediacaran Period biota. Most were soft bodied. The relationships, if any, to modern forms are obscure. Some paleontologists relate many or most of these forms to modern animals. Others acknowledge a few possible or even likely relationships but feel that most of the Ediacaran forms are representatives of unknown animal types.
In addition to Ediacaran biota, two other types of biota were discovered in China (the Doushantuo Formation
and Hainan Formation
The nomenclature for the terminal period of the Neoproterozoic Era has been unstable. Russian and Nordic geologists referred to the last period of the Neoproterozoic as the Vendian
, while Chinese geologists referred to it as the Sinian
, and most Australians and North Americans used the name Ediacaran.
However, in 2004, the International Union of Geological Sciences ratified the Ediacaran Period to be a geological age of the Neoproterozoic, ranging from to million years ago.
The Ediacaran Period boundaries are the only Precambrian boundaries defined by biologic Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point
s, rather than the absolute Global Standard Stratigraphic Age
Neoproterozoic (chronostratigraphy scale)