Reactive oxygen species may play an essential role in driving biological evolution: The Cambrian Explosion as an example

Dong Yang , Xuejun Guo , Tian Xie , Xiaoyan Luo


Received May 22, 2017,Revised May 22, 2017, Accepted May 26, 2017, Available online June 02, 2017

Volume 30,2018,Pages 218-226

The Cambrian Explosion is one of the most significant events in the history of life; essentially all easily fossilizable animal body plans first evolved during this event. Although many theories have been proposed to explain this event, its cause remains unresolved. Here, we propose that the elevated level of oxygen, in combination with the increased mobility and food intake of metazoans, led to increased cellular levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which drove evolution by enhancing mutation rates and providing new regulatory mechanisms. Our hypothesis may provide a unified explanation for the Cambrian Explosion as it incorporates both environmental and developmental factors and is also consistent with ecological explanations for animal radiation. Future studies should focus on testing this hypothesis, and may lead to important insights into evolution.

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