Cephalopods, the most highly organized of the mollusks, started into existence, so far as the record shows, toward, the end of the Cambrian, with the long extinct Orthoceras (STRAIGHTHORN) and the allied genera of its family. The Orthoceras had a long, straight, and tapering shell, divided by cross partitions into chambers. The animal lived in the “body chamber” at the larger end, and walled off the other chambers from it in succession during the growth of the shell. A central tube, the SIPHUNCLE, passed through from the body chamber to the closed tip of the cone.
The seashells, both brachiopods and mollusks, are in some respects the most important to the geologist of all fossils. They have been so numerous, so widely distributed, and so well preserved because of their durable shells and their station in growing sediments, that better than any other group of organisms they can be used to correlate the strata of different regions and to mark by their slow changes the advance of geological time.
Climate. The life of Cambrian times in different countries contains no suggestion of any marked climatic zones, and as in later periods a warm climate probably reached to the polar regions.
The Ordovician and Silurian
[Footnote: Often known as the Lower Silurian.]
In North America the Ordovician rocks lie conformably on the Cambrian. The two periods, therefore, were not parted by any deformation, either of mountain making or of continental uplift. The general submergence which marked the Cambrian continued into the succeeding period with little interruption.
Subdivisions and distribution of strata. The Ordovician series, as they have been made out in New York, are given for reference in the following table, with the rocks of which they are chiefly composed:
5 Hudson . . . . . . . . shales 4 Utica . . . . . . . . shales 3 Trenton . . . . . . . limestones 2 Chazy . . . . . . . . limestones 1 Calciferous . . . . . sandy limestones
These marine formations of the Ordovician outcrop about the Cambrian and pre-Cambrian areas, and, as borings show, extend far and wide over the interior of the continent beneath more recent strata. The Ordovician sea stretched from Appalachia across the Mississippi valley. It seems to have extended to California, although broken probably by several mountainous islands in the west.