TaleSlinger (3080869) writes Scientists following two different lines of evidence have just published research [Here's the abstract to the paywalled Science paper] that may help resolve "Darwin's dilemma," a mystery that plagued the father of evolution until his death more than a century ago. Life appeared when the earth was tens of millions of years old, but evolution didn't go into high gear until the "Cambrian Explosion", nearly a billion years later. The two papers propose complementary theories that help explain this. The first suggests that scientists have long overestimated the amount of oxygen in the earth's atmosphere in the pre-Cambrian era just before the "explosion." The second suggests suggests that very dramatic changes driven by the tectonic breakup of the so-called "supercontinents" of the pre-Cambrian era could have caused an extraordinary leap in oxygen levels of both the ancient oceans and the earth's atmosphere. These two studies fit neatly together, suggesting that a world deprived of oxygen could have changed relatively quickly into an incubator for new life in shallow ponds spread across the continents and fed by waters rich in nutrients. Perhaps that set the stage for the explosion, which may have been five times the evolutionary rate seen today.