The Paleoproterozoic is the first of the three sub-divisions (eras) of the Proterozoic occurring between 1,600 to 2,500 million years ago. This is when the continents first stabilized. This is also when Cyanobacteria evolved, a type of bacteria which uses the biochemical process of photosynthesis to produce energy and oxygen.

Before the significant increase in atmospheric oxygen almost all life that existed was anaerobic, that is, the metabolism of life depended on a form of cellular respiration that did not require oxygen. Free oxygen in large amounts is poisonous to most anaerobic bacteria, and at this time most life on Earth vanished. The only life that remained was either resistant to the oxidizing and poisonous effects of oxygen, or spent its life-cycle in an oxygen-free environment. This main event is called the Oxygen Catastrophe. Also the first Grypania fossils and the first Eukaryotes appeared during this time.

During this era the earliest surviving mountain belt appears, in the Wopmay Fault Zone of Canada (West of Hudson Bay, 2100-1800 million years ago).

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