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Opportunities and Challenges of a Highly Resolved Geological Timescale

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 July 2017

Douglas H. Erwin*
Department of Paleobiology, MRC-121 Smithsonian Institution PO Box 37012, Washington, D. C. 20013-7012, Santa Fe Institute, 1399 Hyde Park Road, Santa Fe, NM 87501
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The advent of greatly improved radiometric dating techniques with lower uncertainties, the development of new dating and correlation techniques, including vastly expanded quantitative biostratigraphic methods, and the possibility of reliable extension of orbital cyclostratigraphy into the Paleozoic all promise a great improvement in the ability of geologists to construct high-resolution temporal frameworks far deeper into the past. Such techniques have already allowed the generation of a high-resolution temporal framework for the Ediacaran-Cambrian radiation of metazoa, helped greatly narrow the duration of the great Permo-Triassic mass extinction and eliminated several hypothesized causes, and narrowed the duration of the oceanic anoxic event at the Cenomanian-Turonian (Late Cretaceous boundary). Temporal resolution of 100 kyr (0.02%) or even better into the early Paleozoic now seems likely, opening a host of new questions for reliable investigation. Further exploiting the possibilities of these techniques will require paleontologists to improve methods to integrate these disparate techniques, improve our understanding of the analysis of evolutionary rates, and confront the challenges of settings where geochronologic resolution may be greater than paleontologic resolution.

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Copyright © by the Paleontological Society 

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