(Illustration by C.R. Scotese, University of Texas, Arlington)

Continental Capers

The Paleozoic Era runs from 541 to 245 million years ago, and geologists divide it into six major periods: Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous, and Permian. The "Cambrian Explosion" ushered forth a great burst of life and the appearance of the first shelled animals. The Paleozoic Era ends with the greatest known mass extinction of life in Earth's history.

The Era opens dramatically: first algae and then animals make a great and perilous leap from water to land (approximately 1,000 MYA after some bacteria colonized land). These new inhabitants devise ingenious ways to carry the ocean with them. The Plant and Fungi Kingdoms make an official debut in life's drama. Earth itself changes as continents riding on their plates congregate, converge, break apart, and recombine.

"Western California moves north at about a centimeter or two each year, producing earthquakes as the Pacific plate slides past the North American Plate. "Baja" California will move up opposite to the interior of "Alta" California. Eventually, Los Angeles will be pushed opposite Berkeley, with results we cannot predict." - Raymond Siever.

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