Cenozoic

The Cenozoic Era (/ˌsiːnəˈzoʊɪk, ˌsɛ-/)[1][2] meaning "new life", is the current and most recent of the three Phanerozoic geological eras, following the Mesozoic Era and extending from 66 million years ago to the present day.

The Cenozoic is also known as the Age of Mammals, because the extinction of many groups allowed mammals to greatly diversify so that large mammals dominated it. The continents also moved into their current positions during this era.

Early in the Cenozoic, following the K-Pg extinction event, most of the fauna was relatively small, and included small mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. From a geological perspective, it did not take long for mammals and birds to greatly diversify in the absence of the large reptiles that had dominated during the Mesozoic. A group of avians known as the "terror birds" grew larger than the average human and were formidable predators. Mammals came to occupy almost every available niche (both marine and terrestrial), and some also grew very large, attaining sizes not seen in most of today's mammals.

The Earth's climate had begun a drying and cooling trend, culminating in the glaciations of the Pleistocene Epoch, and partially offset by the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum.

Cenozoic Era
66–0 million years ago
Events of the Cenozoic
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Cenozoic
An approximate timescale showing subdivisions of the Cenozoic Era.
Axis scale: millions of years before present.

Nomenclature

Cenozoic, meaning "new life," is derived from Greek καινός kainós "new," and ζωή zōḗ "life."[3] The era is also known as the Cænozoic, Caenozoic, or Cainozoic (/ˌkaɪnəˈzoʊɪk, ˌkeɪ-/).[4][5] The name "Cenozoic" (originally: "Kainozoic") was proposed in 1840 by the British geologist John Phillips (1800–1874).[6][7][8]

Divisions

The Cenozoic is divided into three periods: the Paleogene, Neogene, and Quaternary; and seven epochs: the Paleocene, Eocene, Oligocene, Miocene, Pliocene, Pleistocene, and Holocene. The Quaternary Period was officially recognized by the International Commission on Stratigraphy in June 2009,[9] and the former term, Tertiary Period, became officially disused in 2004 due to the need to divide the Cenozoic into periods more like those of the earlier Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras.[10] The common use of epochs during the Cenozoic helps paleontologists better organize and group the many significant events that occurred during this comparatively short interval of time. Knowledge of this era is more detailed than any other era because of the relatively young, well-preserved rocks associated with it.

Paleogene Period

The Paleogene spans from the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs, 66 million years ago, to the dawn of the Neogene, 23.03 million years ago. It features three epochs: the Paleocene, Eocene and Oligocene.

The Paleocene epoch lasted from 66 million to 56 million years ago. Modern placental mammals originated during this time. The Paleocene is a transitional point between the devastation that is the K-T extinction, to the rich jungle environment that is the Early Eocene. The Early Paleocene saw the recovery of the earth. The continents began to take their modern shape, but all the continents and the subcontinent of India were separated from each other. Afro-Eurasia was separated by the Tethys Sea, and the Americas were separated by the strait of Panama, as the isthmus had not yet formed. This epoch featured a general warming trend, with jungles eventually reaching the poles. The oceans were dominated by sharks[11] as the large reptiles that had once predominated were extinct. Archaic mammals filled the world such as creodonts (extinct carnivores, unrelated to existing Carnivora).

The Eocene Epoch ranged from 56 million years to 33.9 million years ago. In the Early-Eocene, species living in dense forest were unable to evolve into larger forms, as in the Paleocene. There was nothing over the weight of 10 kilograms.[12] Among them were early primates, whales and horses along with many other early forms of mammals. At the top of the food chains were huge birds, such as Paracrax. The temperature was 30 degrees Celsius with little temperature gradient from pole to pole. In the Mid-Eocene, the Circumpolar-Antarctic current between Australia and Antarctica formed. This disrupted ocean currents worldwide and as a result caused a global cooling effect, shrinking the jungles. This allowed mammals to grow to mammoth proportions, such as whales which, by that time, had become almost fully aquatic. Mammals like Andrewsarchus were at the top of the food-chain. The Late Eocene saw the rebirth of seasons, which caused the expansion of savanna-like areas, along with the evolution of grass.[13][14] The end of the Eocene was marked by the Eocene-Oligocene extinction event, the European face of which is known as the Grande Coupure.

The Oligocene Epoch spans from 33.9 million to 23.03 million years ago. The Oligocene featured the expansion of grass which had led to many new species to evolve, including the first elephants, cats, dogs, marsupials and many other species still prevalent today. Many other species of plants evolved in this period too. A cooling period featuring seasonal rains was still in effect. Mammals still continued to grow larger and larger.[15]

Neogene

Miocene
Animals of the Miocene (Chalicotherium, Hyenadon, Entelodont...). Mammals are the dominant terrestrial vertebrates of the Cenozoic.

The Neogene spans from 23.03 million to 2.58 million years ago. It features 2 epochs: the Miocene, and the Pliocene.[16]

The Miocene epoch spans from 23.03 to 5.333 million years ago and is a period in which grass spread further, dominating a large portion of the world, at the expense of forests. Kelp forests evolved, encouraging the evolution of new species, such as sea otters. During this time, perissodactyla thrived, and evolved into many different varieties. Apes evolved into 30 species. The Tethys Sea finally closed with the creation of the Arabian Peninsula, leaving only remnants as the Black, Red, Mediterranean and Caspian Seas. This increased aridity. Many new plants evolved: 95% of modern seed plants evolved in the mid-Miocene.[17]

The Pliocene epoch lasted from 5.333 to 2.58 million years ago. The Pliocene featured dramatic climactic changes, which ultimately led to modern species and plants. The Mediterranean Sea dried up for several million years (because the ice ages reduced sea levels, disconnecting the Atlantic from the Mediterranean, and evaporation rates exceeded inflow from rivers). Australopithecus evolved in Africa, beginning the human branch. The isthmus of Panama formed, and animals migrated between North and South America during the great American interchange, wreaking havoc on local ecologies. Climatic changes brought: savannas that are still continuing to spread across the world; Indian monsoons; deserts in central Asia; and the beginnings of the Sahara desert. The world map has not changed much since, save for changes brought about by the glaciations of the Quaternary, such as the Great Lakes, Hudson Bay, and the Baltic sea.[18][19]

Quaternary

The Quaternary spans from 2.58 million years ago to present day, and is the shortest geological period in the Phanerozoic Eon. It features modern animals, and dramatic changes in the climate. It is divided into two epochs: the Pleistocene and the Holocene.

Ice age fauna of northern Spain - Mauricio Antón
Megafauna of Pleistocene Europe (mammoths, cave lions, woolly rhino, reindeer, horses)

The Pleistocene lasted from 2.58 million to 11,700 years ago. This epoch was marked by ice ages as a result of the cooling trend that started in the Mid-Eocene. There were at least four separate glaciation periods marked by the advance of ice caps as far south as 40° N in mountainous areas. Meanwhile, Africa experienced a trend of desiccation which resulted in the creation of the Sahara, Namib, and Kalahari deserts. Many animals evolved including mammoths, giant ground sloths, dire wolves, saber-toothed cats, and most famously Homo sapiens. 100,000 years ago marked the end of one of the worst droughts in Africa, and led to the expansion of primitive humans. As the Pleistocene drew to a close, a major extinction wiped out much of the world's megafauna, including some of the hominid species, such as Neanderthals. All the continents were affected, but Africa to a lesser extent. It still retains many large animals, such as hippos.[20]

The Holocene began 11,700 years ago and lasts to the present day. All recorded history and "the history of the world" lies within the boundaries of the Holocene epoch.[21] Human activity is blamed for a mass extinction that began roughly 10,000 years ago, though the species becoming extinct have only been recorded since the Industrial Revolution. This is sometimes referred to as the "Sixth Extinction". It is often cited that over 322 recorded species have become extinct due to human activity since the Industrial Revolution,[22][23] but the rate may be as high as 500 veterbrate species alone, the majority of which have occurred after 1900.[24]

Animal life

Early in the Cenozoic, following the K-Pg event, the planet was dominated by relatively small fauna, including small mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. From a geological perspective, it did not take long for mammals and birds to greatly diversify in the absence of the dinosaurs that had dominated during the Mesozoic. Some flightless birds grew larger than humans. These species are sometimes referred to as "terror birds," and were formidable predators. Mammals came to occupy almost every available niche (both marine and terrestrial), and some also grew very large, attaining sizes not seen in most of today's terrestrial mammals.

Early animals were the Entelodon (a so-called "hell pig"), Paraceratherium (a hornless rhinoceros relative) and Basilosaurus (an early whale). The extinction of many large diapsid groups, such as flightless dinosaurs, Plesiosauria and Pterosauria allowed mammals and birds to greatly diversify and become the world's predominant fauna.

Tectonics

Geologically, the Cenozoic is the era when the continents moved into their current positions. Australia-New Guinea, having split from Pangea during the early Cretaceous, drifted north and, eventually, collided with South-east Asia; Antarctica moved into its current position over the South Pole; the Atlantic Ocean widened and, later in the era (2.8 million years ago), South America became attached to North America with the isthmus of Panama.

India collided with Asia 55 to 45 million years ago creating the Himalayas; Arabia collided with Eurasia, closing the Tethys Ocean and creating the Zagros Mountains, around 35 million years ago.[25]

The break-up of Gondwana in Late Cretaceous and Cenozoic times led to a shift in the river courses of various large African rivers including the Congo, Niger, Nile, Orange, Limpopo and Zambezi.[26]

Climate

The Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum at about 55.5 million years ago was a significant global warming event; however, since the Azolla event of 49 million years ago, the Cenozoic Era has been a period of long-term cooling. After the tectonic creation of Drake Passage at 41 million years ago, when South America fully detached from Antarctica during the Oligocene, the climate cooled significantly due to the advent of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current which brought cool deep Antarctic water to the surface. The cooling trend continued in the Miocene, with relatively short warmer periods. When South America became attached to North America creating the Isthmus of Panama around 2.8 million years ago, the Arctic region cooled due to the strengthening of the Humboldt and Gulf Stream currents,[27] eventually leading to the glaciations of the Quaternary ice age, the current interglacial of which is the Holocene Epoch. Recent analysis of the geomagnetic reversal frequency, oxygen isotope record, and tectonic plate subduction rate, which are indicators of the changes in the heat flux at the core mantle boundary, climate and plate tectonic activity, shows that all these changes indicate similar rhythms on million years' timescale in the Cenozoic Era occurring with the common fundamental periodicity of ∼13 Myr during most of the time.[28]

Life

During the Cenozoic, mammals proliferated from a few small, simple, generalized forms into a diverse collection of terrestrial, marine, and flying animals, giving this period its other name, the Age of Mammals, despite the fact that there are more than twice as many bird species as mammal species. The Cenozoic is just as much the age of savannas, the age of co-dependent flowering plants and insects, and the age of birds.[29] Grass also played a very important role in this era, shaping the evolution of the birds and mammals that fed on it. One group that diversified significantly in the Cenozoic as well were the snakes. Evolving in the Cenozoic, the variety of snakes increased tremendously, resulting in many colubrids, following the evolution of their current primary prey source, the rodents.

In the earlier part of the Cenozoic, the world was dominated by the gastornithid birds, terrestrial crocodiles like Pristichampsus, and a handful of primitive large mammal groups like uintatheres, mesonychids, and pantodonts. But as the forests began to recede and the climate began to cool, other mammals took over.

The Cenozoic is full of mammals both strange and familiar, including chalicotheres, creodonts, whales, primates, entelodonts, saber-toothed cats, mastodons and mammoths, three-toed horses, giant rhinoceros like Indricotherium, the rhinoceros-like brontotheres, various bizarre groups of mammals from South America, such as the vaguely elephant-like pyrotheres and the dog-like marsupial relatives called borhyaenids and the monotremes and marsupials of Australia.

See also

References

  1. ^ "Cenozoic". Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House.
  2. ^ "Cenozoic". Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
  3. ^ "Cenozoic". Online Etymology Dictionary.
  4. ^ "Cainozoic". Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House.
  5. ^ Oxford English Dictionary Second Edition, 1989
  6. ^ Phillips, John (1840). "Palæozoic series". Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. vol. 17. London, England: Charles Knight and Co. pp. 153–154. From pp. 153–154: "As many systems or combinations of organic forms as are clearly traceable in the stratified crust of the globe, so many corresponding terms (as Palæozoic, Mesozoic, Kainozoic, &c.) may be made, … "
  7. ^ Wilmarth, Mary Grace (1925). Bulletin 769: The Geologic Time Classification of the United States Geological Survey Compared With Other Classifications, accompanied by the original definitions of era, period and epoch terms. Washington, D.C., U.S.A.: U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 8.
  8. ^ The evolution of the spelling of "Cenozoic" is reviewed in:
    • Harland, W. Brian; Armstrong, Richard L.; Cox, Allen V.; Craig, Lorraine E.; Smith, David G.; Smith, Alan G. (1990). "The Chronostratic Scale". A Geologic Time Scale 1989. Cambridge, England, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. p. 31.
    Although John Phillips originally (1840) spelled Cenozoic as "Kainozoic", in 1841 he spelled it as "Cainozoic":
  9. ^ Gibbard, P. L.; Head, M. J.; Walker, M. J. C. (2010). "Formal ratification of the Quaternary System/Period and the Pleistocene Series/Epoch with a base at 2.58 Ma". Journal of Quaternary Science. 25 (2): 96–102. Bibcode:2010JQS....25...96G. doi:10.1002/jqs.1338.
  10. ^ International Stratigraphic Chart
  11. ^ Royal Tyrrell Museum (28 March 2012), Lamniform sharks: 110 million years of ocean supremacy, retrieved 12 July 2017
  12. ^ University of California. "Eocene Epoch". University of California.
  13. ^ University of California. "Eocene Climate". University of California.
  14. ^ National Geographic Society. "Eocene". National Geographic.
  15. ^ University of California. "Oligocene". University of California.
  16. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica. "Neogene". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  17. ^ University of California. "Miocene". University of California.
  18. ^ University of California. "Pliocene". University of California.
  19. ^ Jonathan Adams. "Pliocene climate". Oak Ridge National Library. Archived from the original on 25 February 2015.
  20. ^ University of California. "Pleistocene". University of California.
  21. ^ University of California. "Holocene". University of California.
  22. ^ Scientific American. "Sixth Extinction extinctions". Scientific American.
  23. ^ IUCN. "Sixth Extinction". IUCN.
  24. ^ Ceballos et al. (2015). "Accelerated modern human–induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction". Science Advances.
  25. ^ Allen, M. B.; Armstrong, H. A. (2008). "Arabia-Eurasia collision and the forcing of mid Cenozoic global cooling". Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 265 (1–2): 52–58. doi:10.1016/j.palaeo.2008.04.021.
  26. ^ Goudie, A.S. (2005). "The drainage of Africa since the Cretaceous". Geomorphology. 67 (3–4): 437–456. Bibcode:2005Geomo..67..437G. doi:10.1016/j.geomorph.2004.11.008.
  27. ^ "How the Isthmus of Panama Put Ice in the Arctic". Oceanus Magazine.
  28. ^ Chen, J.; Kravchinsky, V.A.; Liu, X. (2015). "The 13 million year Cenozoic pulse of the Earth". Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 431: 256–263. Bibcode:2015E&PSL.431..256C. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2015.09.033.
  29. ^ "The Cenozoic Era".

Bibliography

  • British Caenozoic Fossils, 1975, The Natural History Museum, London.
  • Geologic Time, by Henry Roberts.
  • After the Dinosaurs: The Age of Mammals, by Donald R. Prothero, Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2006. ISBN 978-0-253-34733-6.

External links

Alpine orogeny

The Alpine orogeny or Alpide orogeny is an orogenic phase in the Late Mesozoic (Eoalpine) and the current Cenozoic that has formed the mountain ranges of the Alpide belt. These mountains include (from west to east) the Atlas, the Rif, the Baetic Cordillera, the Cantabrian Mountains, the Pyrenees, the Alps, the Apennine Mountains, the Dinaric Alps, the Hellenides, the Carpathians, the Balkan Mountains and the Rila-Rhodope massif, the Taurus, the Armenian Highlands, the Caucasus, the Alborz, the Zagros, the Hindu Kush, the Pamir, the Karakoram, and the Himalayas. Sometimes other names occur to describe the formation of separate mountain ranges: for example Carpathian orogeny for the Carpathians, Hellenic orogeny for the Hellenides or the Himalayan orogeny for the Himalayas.

The Alpine orogeny has also led to the formation of more distant and smaller geological features such as the Weald–Artois Anticline in southern England and northern France, the remains of which can be seen in the chalk ridges of the North and South Downs in southern England. Its effects are particularly visible on the Isle of Wight, where the Chalk Group and overlying Eocene strata are folded to near-vertical, as seen in exposures at Alum Bay and Whitecliff Bay, and on the Dorset coast near Lulworth Cove. Stresses arising from the Alpine orogeny caused the Cenozoic uplift of the Sudetes mountain range and possibly faulted rocks as far away as Öland in southern Sweden during the Paleocene.The Alpine orogeny is caused by the continents Africa and India and the small Cimmerian plate colliding (from the south) with Eurasia in the north. Convergent movements between the tectonic plates (the Indian plate and the African plate from the south, the Eurasian plate from the north, and many smaller plates and microplates) had already begun in the early Cretaceous, but the major phases of mountain building began in the Paleocene to Eocene. The process continues currently in some of the Alpide mountain ranges.

The Alpine orogeny is considered one of the three major phases of orogeny in Europe that define the geology of that continent, along with the Caledonian orogeny that formed the Old Red Sandstone Continent when the continents Baltica and Laurentia collided in the early Paleozoic, and the Hercynian or Variscan orogeny that formed Pangaea when Gondwana and the Old Red Sandstone Continent collided in the middle to late Paleozoic.

Arabian Plate

The Arabian Plate is a tectonic plate in the northern and eastern hemispheres.

It is one of three continental plates (the African, Arabian, and Indian Plates) that have been moving northward in recent geological history and colliding with the Eurasian Plate. This is resulting in a mingling of plate pieces and mountain ranges extending in the west from the Pyrenees, crossing Southern Europe to Iran, forming the Alborz and Zagros Mountains, to the Himalayas and ranges of Southeast Asia.

Chikoida Mountain

Chikoida Mountain is a mountain on the Taku Plateau in northwestern British Columbia, Canada, located 52 km (32 mi) southeast of Atlin on the east side of the Silver Salmon River.Chikoida Mountain is a volcanic feature of the Northern Cordilleran Volcanic Province that formed in the past 66.4 million years of the Cenozoic epoch.

Coelurosauria

Coelurosauria (; from Greek, meaning "hollow tailed lizards") is the clade containing all theropod dinosaurs more closely related to birds than to carnosaurs.

Coelurosauria is a subgroup of theropod dinosaurs that includes compsognathids, tyrannosaurs, ornithomimosaurs, and maniraptorans; Maniraptora includes birds, the only dinosaur group alive today.Most feathered dinosaurs discovered so far have been coelurosaurs. Philip J. Currie considers it likely and probable that all coelurosaurs were feathered. In the past, Coelurosauria was used to refer to all small theropods, but this classification has since been abolished.

Colubridae

Colubridae (, commonly known as colubrids , from Latin coluber, snake) is a family of snakes. With 524 genera and approximately 1,760 species, it is the largest snake family, and includes just over 51% of all known living snake species. The earliest species of the family date back to the Oligocene epoch. Colubrid snakes are found on every continent except Antarctica.

Epoch (geology)

In geochronology, an epoch is a subdivision of the geologic timescale that is longer than an age but shorter than a period. The current epoch is the Holocene Epoch of the Quaternary Period. Rock layers deposited during an epoch are called a series. Series are subdivisions of the stratigraphic column that, like epochs, are subdivisions of the geologic timescale. Like other geochronological divisions, epochs are normally separated by significant changes in the rock layers to which they correspond.

Epochs are most commonly used for the younger Cenozoic Era, where a greater collection of fossils has been found and paleontologists have more detailed knowledge of the events that occurred during those times. They are less commonly referred to for the other eras and eons, since less fossil evidence exists that allows us to form a clearer view of those time periods.

Era (geology)

A geologic era is a subdivision of geologic time that divides an eon into smaller units of time. The Phanerozoic Eon is divided into three such time frames: the Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic (meaning "old life", "middle life" and "recent life") that represent the major stages in the macroscopic fossil record. These eras are separated by catastrophic extinction boundaries, the P-T boundary between the Paleozoic and the Mesozoic and the K-Pg boundary between the Mesozoic and the Cenozoic. There is evidence that catastrophic meteorite impacts played a role in demarcating the differences between the eras.

The Hadean, Archean and Proterozoic eons were as a whole formerly called the Precambrian. This covered the four billion years of Earth history prior to the appearance of hard-shelled animals. More recently, however, the Archean and Proterozoic eons have been subdivided into eras of their own.

Geologic eras are further subdivided into geologic periods, although the Archean eras have yet to be subdivided in this way.

Farallon Plate

The Farallon Plate was an ancient oceanic plate that began subducting under the west coast of the North American Plate—then located in modern Utah—as Pangaea broke apart during the Jurassic period. It is named for the Farallon Islands, which are located just west of San Francisco, California.

Over time, the central part of the Farallon Plate was completely subducted under the southwestern part of the North American Plate. The remains of the Farallon Plate are the Juan de Fuca, Explorer and Gorda Plates, subducting under the northern part of the North American Plate; the Cocos Plate subducting under Central America; and the Nazca Plate subducting under the South American Plate.The Farallon Plate is also responsible for transporting old island arcs and various fragments of continental crustal material rifted off from other distant plates and accreting them to the North American Plate.

These fragments from elsewhere are called terranes (sometimes, "exotic" terranes). Much of western North America is composed of these accreted terranes.

Hipparion

Hipparion (Greek, "pony") is an extinct genus of horse that lived in North America, Asia, Europe, and Africa during the Miocene through Pleistocene ~23 Mya—781,000 years ago. It lived in non-forested, grassy plains, shortgrass prairie or steppes.

Mammoth

A mammoth is any species of the extinct genus Mammuthus, one of the many genera that make up the order of trunked mammals called proboscideans. The various species of mammoth were commonly equipped with long, curved tusks and, in northern species, a covering of long hair. They lived from the Pliocene epoch (from around 5 million years ago) into the Holocene at about 4,000 years ago, and various species existed in Africa, Europe, Asia, and North America. They were members of the family Elephantidae, which also contains the two genera of modern elephants and their ancestors.

The oldest representative of Mammuthus, the South African mammoth (M. subplanifrons), appeared around 5 million years ago during the early Pliocene in what is now southern and eastern Africa. Descendant species of these mammoths moved north and continued to propagate into numerous subsequent species, eventually covering most of Eurasia before extending into the Americas at least 600,000 years ago. The last species to emerge, the woolly mammoth (M. primigenius), developed about 400,000 years ago in East Asia, with some surviving on Russia's Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean until as recently as roughly 3,700 to 4,000 years ago, still extant during the construction of the Great Pyramid of ancient Egypt.

Maniraptoromorpha

Maniraptoromorpha is a clade of coelurosaurian theropod dinosaurs that includes the taxa Ornitholestes, Coelurus, and Maniraptoriformes. There has been several phylogenetic analyses that have shown support in the grouping of Maniraptoriformes with at least the aforementioned Ornitholestes. This group was named by Andrea Cau, who defined it as the "most inclusive clade containing Vultur gryphus Linnaeus, 1758, and excluding Tyrannosaurus rex Osborn, 1905."This group of coelurosaurs according to Cau (2018) has the following synapomorphies:

Keel or carinae in the postaxial cervical centra, absence of hyposphene-hypantra in caudal vertebrae (reversal to the plesiomorphic theropodan condition), a prominent dorsomedial process on the semilunate carpal, a convex ventral margin of the pubic foot, a subrectangular distal end of tibia and a sulcus along the posterior margin of the proximal end of fibula.

Mesozoic

The Mesozoic Era ( or ) is an interval of geological time from about 252 to 66 million years ago. It is also called the Age of Reptiles and the Age of Conifers.The Mesozoic ("middle life") is one of three geologic eras of the Phanerozoic Eon, preceded by the Paleozoic ("ancient life") and succeeded by the Cenozoic ("new life"). The era is subdivided into three major periods: the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous, which are further subdivided into a number of epochs and stages.

The era began in the wake of the Permian–Triassic extinction event, the largest well-documented mass extinction in Earth's history, and ended with the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, another mass extinction whose victims included the non-avian dinosaurs. The Mesozoic was a time of significant tectonic, climate and evolutionary activity. The era witnessed the gradual rifting of the supercontinent Pangaea into separate landmasses that would move into their current positions during the next era. The climate of the Mesozoic was varied, alternating between warming and cooling periods. Overall, however, the Earth was hotter than it is today. Dinosaurs first appeared in the Mid-Triassic, and became the dominant terrestrial vertebrates in the Late Triassic or Early Jurassic, occupying this position for about 150 or 135 million years until their demise at the end of the Cretaceous. Birds first appeared in the Jurassic (however, true toothless birds appeared first in the Cretaceous), having evolved from a branch of theropod dinosaurs. The first mammals also appeared during the Mesozoic, but would remain small—less than 15 kg (33 lb)—until the Cenozoic. The flowering plants (angiosperms) arose in the Triassic or Jurassic and came to prominence in the late Cretaceous when they replaced the conifers and other gymnosperms as the dominant trees.

Neogene

The Neogene ( ) (informally Upper Tertiary or Late Tertiary) is a geologic period and system that spans 20.45 million years from the end of the Paleogene Period 23.03 million years ago (Mya) to the beginning of the present Quaternary Period 2.58 Mya. The Neogene is sub-divided into two epochs, the earlier Miocene and the later Pliocene. Some geologists assert that the Neogene cannot be clearly delineated from the modern geological period, the Quaternary. The term "Neogene" was coined in 1853 by the Austrian palaeontologist Moritz Hörnes (1815–1868).During this period, mammals and birds continued to evolve into roughly modern forms, while other groups of life remained relatively unchanged. Early hominids, the ancestors of humans, appeared in Africa near the end of the period. Some continental movement took place, the most significant event being the connection of North and South America at the Isthmus of Panama, late in the Pliocene. This cut off the warm ocean currents from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean, leaving only the Gulf Stream to transfer heat to the Arctic Ocean. The global climate cooled considerably over the course of the Neogene, culminating in a series of continental glaciations in the Quaternary Period that follows.

Paleogene

The Paleogene (; also spelled Palaeogene or Palæogene; informally Lower Tertiary or Early Tertiary) is a geologic period and system that spans 43 million years from the end of the Cretaceous Period 66 million years ago (Mya) to the beginning of the Neogene Period 23.03 Mya. It is the beginning of the Cenozoic Era of the present Phanerozoic Eon. The Paleogene is most notable for being the time during which mammals diversified from relatively small, simple forms into a large group of diverse animals in the wake of the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event that ended the preceding Cretaceous Period. The United States Geological Survey uses the abbreviation PE for the Paleogene, but the more commonly used abbreviation is PG with the PE being used for Paleocene.

This period consists of the Paleocene, Eocene, and Oligocene epochs. The end of the Paleocene (55.5/54.8 Mya) was marked by the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum, one of the most significant periods of global change during the Cenozoic, which upset oceanic and atmospheric circulation and led to the extinction of numerous deep-sea benthic foraminifera and on land, a major turnover in mammals. The terms 'Paleogene System' (formal) and 'lower Tertiary System' (informal) are applied to the rocks deposited during the 'Paleogene Period'. The somewhat confusing terminology seems to be due to attempts to deal with the comparatively fine subdivisions of time possible in the relatively recent geologic past, for which more details are preserved. When the Tertiary Period is divided into two periods instead of directly into five epochs, the periods are more closely comparable to the duration of 'periods' of the preceding Mesozoic and Paleozoic Eras.

Quaternary

Quaternary ( ) is the current and most recent of the three periods of the Cenozoic Era in the geologic time scale of the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS). It follows the Neogene Period and spans from 2.588 ± 0.005 million years ago to the present. The Quaternary Period is divided into two epochs: the Pleistocene (2.588 million years ago to 11.7 thousand years ago) and the Holocene (11.7 thousand years ago to today). The informal term "Late Quaternary" refers to the past 0.5–1.0 million years.The Quaternary Period is typically defined by the cyclic growth and decay of continental ice sheets associated with Milankovitch cycles and the associated climate and environmental changes that occurred.

Silverfish

A silverfish (Lepisma saccharina) is a small, wingless insect in the order Zygentoma (formerly Thysanura). Its common name derives from the animal's silvery light grey colour, combined with the fish-like appearance of its movements. However, the scientific name (L. saccharina) indicates the silverfish's diet consists of carbohydrates such as sugar or starches.

Stone-curlew

The stone-curlews, also known as dikkops or thick-knees, consist of nine species within the family Burhinidae, and are found throughout the tropical and temperate parts of the world, with two species found in Australia. Despite the group being classified as waders, most species have a preference for arid or semi-arid habitats.

Tertiary

Tertiary is a widely used term for the geologic period from 66 million to 2.6 million years ago, a timespan that occurs between the Mesozoic Era and the Quaternary, although no longer recognized as a formal unit by the International Commission on Stratigraphy. The span of the Tertiary is subdivided into the Paleocene Epoch (56 – 66 million years BP), the Eocene Epoch (33.9 – 56 million years BP), the Oligocene Epoch (23 – 33.9 million years BP), the Miocene Epoch (5.3 – 23 million years BP) and the Pliocene Epoch (2.6 – 5.3 million years BP), extending to the first stage of the Pleistocene Epoch, the Gelasian stage.The period began with the demise of the non-avian dinosaurs in the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, at the start of the Cenozoic Era, and extended to the beginning of the Quaternary glaciation at the end of the Pliocene Epoch.

Cenozoic era.mw-parser-output .nobold{font-weight:normal}(present–66.0 Mya)
Mesozoic era
(66.0–251.902 Mya)
Paleozoic era
(251.902–541.0 Mya)
Proterozoic eon
(541.0 Mya–2.5 Gya)
Archean eon (2.5–4 Gya)
Hadean eon (4–4.6 Gya)

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