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News Release 10-037

Scientists Find Signs of "Snowball Earth" Amidst Early Animal Evolution

New evidence hints at global glaciation 716.5 million years ago

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A diagram showing two theories on glaciation on early Earth (from 716.5 to 630 million years ago).

Two ideas exist on the progression of glaciation on Earth from 716.5 to 630 million years ago. Current evidence suggests the top version: a dynamic snowball Earth in which at least two long-lived glaciations happened during which communication between the ocean and the atmosphere was cut off. In this scenario, as CO2 built up, a hot-house effect ensued resulting in an ice-free planet at 670 and 630 million years ago.

Credit: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation


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Photo of a rock formation showing evidence of past glaciation in tropical latitudes.

Glaciation at tropical latitudes provides evidence of a "snowball Earth."

Credit: Francis Macdonald


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Photo of rocks in northwestern Canada that show evidence of past ice cover at tropical latitudes.

Ancient tropical rocks now found in northwestern Canada show evidence of past ice cover.

Credit: Francis Macdonald


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Photo of a glacially deposited rock fragment with a coin for scale.

Scientists wonder if a long-ago "snowball Earth" stimulated the evolution of animals.

Credit: Francis Macdonald


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Cover of the March 5, 2010 issue of Science.

The researchers' findings appear in the March 5, 2010 issue of the journal Science.

Credit: Copyright AAAS 2010


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