Miocene

The Miocene ( /ˈmaɪəˌsiːn/[2][3]) is the first geological epoch of the Neogene Period and extends from about 23.03 to 5.333 million years ago (Ma). The Miocene was named by Charles Lyell; its name comes from the Greek words μείων (meiōn, “less”) and καινός (kainos, “new”)[4][5] and means "less recent" because it has 18% fewer modern sea invertebrates than the Pliocene.[6] The Miocene is preceded by the Oligocene and is followed by the Pliocene.

As the earth went from the Oligocene through the Miocene and into the Pliocene, the climate slowly cooled towards a series of ice ages. The Miocene boundaries are not marked by a single distinct global event but consist rather of regionally defined boundaries between the warmer Oligocene and the cooler Pliocene Epoch.

The Apes first evolved, arose, and diversified during the early Miocene (Aquitanian and Burdigalian stages), becoming widespread in the Old World. By the end of this epoch and the start of the following one, the ancestors of humans had split away from the ancestors of the chimpanzees to follow their own evolutionary path during the final Messinian stage (7.2 - 5.3 mya) of the Miocene. As in the Oligocene before it, grasslands continued to expand and forests to dwindle in extent. In the seas of the Miocene, kelp forests made their first appearance and soon became one of Earth's most productive ecosystems.[7]

The plants and animals of the Miocene were recognizably modern. Mammals and birds were well-established. Whales, pinnipeds, and kelp spread.

The Miocene is of particular interest to geologists and palaeoclimatologists as major phases of the geology of the Himalaya occurred during the Miocene, affecting monsoonal patterns in Asia, which were interlinked with glacial periods in the northern hemisphere.[8]

System/
Period
Series/
Epoch
Stage/
Age
Age (Ma)
Quaternary Pleistocene Gelasian younger
Neogene Pliocene Piacenzian 2.58 3.600
Zanclean 3.600 5.333
Miocene Messinian 5.333 7.246
Tortonian 7.246 11.63
Serravallian 11.63 13.82
Langhian 13.82 15.97
Burdigalian 15.97 20.44
Aquitanian 20.44 23.03
Paleogene Oligocene Chattian older
Subdivision of the Neogene Period
according to the ICS, as of 2017.[1]

Subdivisions

The Miocene faunal stages from youngest to oldest are typically named according to the International Commission on Stratigraphy:[9]

Sub-epoch Faunal stage Time range
Late Miocene Messinian 7.246–5.333 Ma
Tortonian 11.608–7.246 Ma
Middle Miocene Serravallian 13.65–11.608 Ma
Langhian 15.97–13.65 Ma
Early Miocene Burdigalian 20.43–15.97 Ma
Aquitanian 23.03–20.43 Ma

Regionally, other systems are used, based on characteristic land mammals; some of them overlap with the preceding Oligocene and following Pliocene epochs:

European Land Mammal Ages

North American Land Mammal Ages

South American Land Mammal Ages

Paleogeography

Continents continued to drift toward their present positions. Of the modern geologic features, only the land bridge between South America and North America was absent, although South America was approaching the western subduction zone in the Pacific Ocean, causing both the rise of the Andes and a southward extension of the Meso-American peninsula.

Mountain building took place in western North America, Europe, and East Asia. Both continental and marine Miocene deposits are common worldwide with marine outcrops common near modern shorelines. Well studied continental exposures occur in the North American Great Plains and in Argentina.

India continued to collide with Asia, creating dramatic new mountain ranges. The Tethys Seaway continued to shrink and then disappeared as Africa collided with Eurasia in the TurkishArabian region between 19 and 12 Ma. The subsequent uplift of mountains in the western Mediterranean region and a global fall in sea levels combined to cause a temporary drying up of the Mediterranean Sea (known as the Messinian salinity crisis) near the end of the Miocene.

The global trend was towards increasing aridity caused primarily by global cooling reducing the ability of the atmosphere to absorb moisture. Uplift of East Africa in the late Miocene was partly responsible for the shrinking of tropical rain forests in that region, and Australia got drier as it entered a zone of low rainfall in the Late Miocene.

South America

During the Oligocene and Early Miocene the coast of northern Brazil,[10] Colombia, south-central Peru, central Chile and large swathes of inland Patagonia were subject to a marine transgression.[11] The transgressions in the west coast of South America is thought to be caused by a regional phenomenon while the steadily rising central segment of the Andes represents an exception.[11] While there are numerous registers of Oligo-Miocene transgressions around the world it is doubtful that these correlate.[10]

It is thought that the Oligo-Miocene transgression in Patagonia could have temporarily linked the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, as inferred from the findings of marine invertebrate fossils of both Atlantic and Pacific affinity in La Cascada Formation.[12][13] Connection would have occurred through narrow epicontinental seaways that formed channels in a dissected topography.[12][14] The Antarctic Plate started to subduct beneath South America 14 million years ago in the Miocene, forming the Chile Triple Junction. At first the Antarctic Plate subducted only in the southernmost tip of Patagonia, meaning that the Chile Triple Junction lay near the Strait of Magellan. As the southern part of Nazca Plate and the Chile Rise became consumed by subduction the more northerly regions of the Antarctic Plate begun to subduct beneath Patagonia so that the Chile Triple Junction advanced to the north over time.[15] The asthenospheric window associated to the triple junction disturbed previous patterns of mantle convection beneath Patagonia inducing an uplift of ca. 1 km that reversed the Oligocene–Miocene transgression.[14][16]

Climate

Climates remained moderately warm, although the slow global cooling that eventually led to the Pleistocene glaciations continued.

Although a long-term cooling trend was well underway, there is evidence of a warm period during the Miocene when the global climate rivalled that of the Oligocene. The Miocene warming began 21 million years ago and continued until 14 million years ago, when global temperatures took a sharp drop—the Middle Miocene Climate Transition (MMCT). By 8 million years ago, temperatures dropped sharply once again, and the Antarctic ice sheet was already approaching its present-day size and thickness. Greenland may have begun to have large glaciers as early as 7 to 8 million years ago, although the climate for the most part remained warm enough to support forests there well into the Pliocene.

Life

Life during the Miocene Epoch was mostly supported by the two newly formed biomes, kelp forests and grasslands. Grasslands allow for more grazers, such as horses, rhinoceroses, and hippos. Ninety five percent of modern plants existed by the end of this epoch.

Flora

Socotra dragon tree
The dragon blood tree is considered a remnant of the Mio-Pliocene Laurasian subtropical forests that are now almost extinct in North Africa.[17]

The coevolution of gritty, fibrous, fire-tolerant grasses and long-legged gregarious ungulates with high-crowned teeth, led to a major expansion of grass-grazer ecosystems, with roaming herds of large, swift grazers pursued by predators across broad sweeps of open grasslands, displacing desert, woodland, and browsers.

The higher organic content and water retention of the deeper and richer grassland soils, with long term burial of carbon in sediments, produced a carbon and water vapor sink. This, combined with higher surface albedo and lower evapotranspiration of grassland, contributed to a cooler, drier climate.[18] C4 grasses, which are able to assimilate carbon dioxide and water more efficiently than C3 grasses, expanded to become ecologically significant near the end of the Miocene between 6 and 7 million years ago.[19] The expansion of grasslands and radiations among terrestrial herbivores correlates to fluctuations in CO2.[20]

Cycads between 11.5 and 5 m.y.a. began to rediversify after previous declines in variety due to climatic changes, and thus modern cycads are not a good model for a "living fossil".[21] Eucalyptus fossil leaves occur in the Miocene of New Zealand, where the genus is not native today, but have been introduced from Australia.[22]

Fauna

CamelFootprintBarstowMiocene
Cameloid footprint (Lamaichnum alfi Sarjeant and Reynolds, 1999; convex hyporelief) from the Barstow Formation (Miocene) of Rainbow Basin, California.

Both marine and continental fauna were fairly modern, although marine mammals were less numerous. Only in isolated South America and Australia did widely divergent fauna exist.

In the Early Miocene, several Oligocene groups were still diverse, including nimravids, entelodonts, and three-toed equids. Like in the previous Oligocene epoch, oreodonts were still diverse, only to disappear in the earliest Pliocene. During the later Miocene mammals were more modern, with easily recognizable canids, bears, procyonids, equids, beavers, deer, camelids, and whales, along with now extinct groups like borophagine canids, certain gomphotheres, three-toed horses, and semiaquatic and hornless rhinos like Teleoceras and Aphelops. Islands began to form between South and North America in the Late Miocene, allowing ground sloths like Thinobadistes to island-hop to North America. The expansion of silica-rich C4 grasses led to worldwide extinctions of herbivorous species without high-crowned teeth.[23]

Miocene
Miocene fauna of North America, as restored by paleoartist Jay Matternes

A few basal mammal groups endured into this epoch in southern landmasses, including the south american dryolestoid Necrolestes and gondwanathere Patagonia and New Zealand's Saint Bathans Mammal. Non-marsupial metatherians were also still around, such as the American and Eurasian herpetotheriids and peradectids such as Siamoperadectes, and the South American sparassodonts.

Unequivocally recognizable dabbling ducks, plovers, typical owls, cockatoos and crows appear during the Miocene. By the epoch's end, all or almost all modern bird groups are believed to have been present; the few post-Miocene bird fossils which cannot be placed in the evolutionary tree with full confidence are simply too badly preserved, rather than too equivocal in character. Marine birds reached their highest diversity ever in the course of this epoch.

Approximately 100 species of apes lived during this time, ranging throughout Africa, Asia and Europe and varying widely in size, diet, and anatomy. Due to scanty fossil evidence it is unclear which ape or apes contributed to the modern hominid clade, but molecular evidence indicates this ape lived between 7 and 8 million years ago.[24] The first hominins (bipedal apes of the human lineage) appeared in Africa at the very end of the Miocene, including Sahelanthropus, Orrorin, and an early form of Ardipithecus (A. kadabba) The chimpanzee–human divergence is thought to have occurred at this time.[25]

The expansion of grasslands in North America also led to an explosive radiation among snakes.[26] Previously, snakes were a minor component of the North American fauna, but during the Miocene, the number of species and their prevalence increased dramatically with the first appearances of vipers and elapids in North America and the significant diversification of Colubridae (including the origin of many modern genera such as Nerodia, Lampropeltis, Pituophis and Pantherophis).[26]

Calvert Zone 10 Calvert Co MD
Fossils from the Calvert Formation, Zone 10, Calvert Co., MD (Miocene).
The Childrens Museum of Indianapolis - Miocene crab
A Miocene crab (Tumidocarcinus giganteus) from the collection of the Children's Museum of Indianapolis

In the oceans, brown algae, called kelp, proliferated, supporting new species of sea life, including otters, fish and various invertebrates.

Cetaceans attained their greatest diversity during the Miocene,[27] with over 20 recognized genera in comparison to only six living genera.[28] This diversification correlates with emergence of gigantic macro-predators such as megatoothed sharks and raptorial sperm whales.[29] Prominent examples are C. megalodon and L. melvillei.[29] Other notable large sharks were C. chubutensis, Isurus hastalis, and Hemipristis serra.

Crocodilians also showed signs of diversification during Miocene. The largest form among them was a gigantic caiman Purussaurus which inhabited South America.[30] Another gigantic form was a false gharial Rhamphosuchus, which inhabited modern age India. A strange form, Mourasuchus also thrived alongside Purussaurus. This species developed a specialized filter-feeding mechanism, and it likely preyed upon small fauna despite its gigantic size.

The pinnipeds, which appeared near the end of the Oligocene, became more aquatic. Prominent genus was Allodesmus.[31] A ferocious walrus, Pelagiarctos may have preyed upon other species of pinnipeds including Allodesmus.

Furthermore, South American waters witnessed the arrival of Megapiranha paranensis, which were considerably larger than modern age piranhas.

New Zealand's Miocene fossil record is particularly rich. Marine deposits showcase a variety of cetaceans and penguins, illustrating the evolution of both groups into modern representatives. The early Miocene Saint Bathans Fauna is the only Cenozoic terrestrial fossil record of the landmass, showcasing a wide variety of not only bird species, including early representatives of clades such as moas, kiwis and adzebills, but also a diverse herpetofauna of sphenodontians, crocodiles and turtle as well as a rich terrestrial mammal fauna composed of various species of bats and the enigmatic Saint Bathans Mammal.

Oceans

There is evidence from oxygen isotopes at Deep Sea Drilling Program sites that ice began to build up in Antarctica about 36 Ma during the Eocene. Further marked decreases in temperature during the Middle Miocene at 15 Ma probably reflect increased ice growth in Antarctica. It can therefore be assumed that East Antarctica had some glaciers during the early to mid Miocene (23–15 Ma). Oceans cooled partly due to the formation of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, and about 15 million years ago the ice cap in the southern hemisphere started to grow to its present form. The Greenland ice cap developed later, in the Middle Pliocene time, about 3 million years ago.

Middle Miocene disruption

The "Middle Miocene disruption" refers to a wave of extinctions of terrestrial and aquatic life forms that occurred following the Miocene Climatic Optimum (18 to 16 Ma), around 14.8 to 14.5 million years ago, during the Langhian stage of the mid-Miocene. A major and permanent cooling step occurred between 14.8 and 14.1 Ma, associated with increased production of cold Antarctic deep waters and a major growth of the East Antarctic ice sheet. A Middle Miocene δ18O increase, that is, a relative increase in the heavier isotope of oxygen, has been noted in the Pacific, the Southern Ocean and the South Atlantic.[32]

Impact event

A large impact event occurred either during the Miocene (23 Ma - 5.3 Ma) or the Pliocene (5.3 Ma - 2.6 Ma). The event formed the Karakul crater (52 km diameter), which is estimated to have an age of less than 23 Ma[33] or less than 5 Ma.[34]

See also

References

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  2. ^ "Miocene". Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House.
  3. ^ "Miocene". Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
  4. ^ See:
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  7. ^ "BBC Nature - Miocene epoch videos, news and facts". BBC. Retrieved 2016-11-13.
  8. ^ Zhisheng, An; Kutzbach, John E.; Prell, Warren L.; Porter, Stephen C. (3 May 2001). "Evolution of Asian monsoons and phased uplift of the Himalaya–Tibetan plateau since Late Miocene times". Nature. 411 (6833): 62–66. doi:10.1038/35075035.
  9. ^ Robert A. Rohde (2005). "GeoWhen Database". Retrieved March 8, 2011.
  10. ^ a b Rossetti, Dilce F.; Bezerra, Francisco H.R.; Dominguez, José M.L. (2013). "Late Oligocene–Miocene transgressions along the equatorial and eastern margins of Brazil". Earth-Science Reviews. 123: 87–112. doi:10.1016/j.earscirev.2013.04.005.
  11. ^ a b Macharé, José; Devries, Thomas; Barron, John; Fourtanier, Élisabeth (1988). "Oligo-Miocene transgression along the Pacifie margin of South America: new paleontological and geological evidence from the Pisco basin (Peru)" (PDF). Geódynamique. 3 (1–2): 25–37.
  12. ^ a b Encinas, Alfonso; Pérez, Felipe; Nielsen, Sven; Finger, Kenneth L.; Valencia, Victor; Duhart, Paul (2014). "Geochronologic and paleontologic evidence for a Pacific–Atlantic connection during the late Oligocene–early Miocene in the Patagonian Andes (43–44°S)". Journal of South American Earth Sciences. 55: 1–18. Bibcode:2014JSAES..55....1E. doi:10.1016/j.jsames.2014.06.008.
  13. ^ Nielsen, S.N. (2005). "Cenozoic Strombidae, Aporrhaidae, and Struthiolariidae (Gastropoda, Stromboidea) from Chile: their significance to biogeography of faunas and climate of the south-east Pacific". Journal of Paleontology. 79: 1120–1130. doi:10.1666/0022-3360(2005)079[1120:csaasg]2.0.co;2.
  14. ^ a b Guillame, Benjamin; Martinod, Joseph; Husson, Laurent; Roddaz, Martin; Riquelme, Rodrigo (2009). "Neogene uplift of central eastern Patagonia: Dynamic response to active spreading ridge subduction?". Tectonics. 28.
  15. ^ Cande, S.C.; Leslie, R.B. (1986). "Late Cenozoic Tectonics of the Southern Chile Trench". Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth and Planets. 91: 471–496. Bibcode:1986JGR....91..471C. doi:10.1029/jb091ib01p00471.
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  17. ^ Attorre, F.; Francesconi, F.; Taleb, N.; Scholte, P.; Saed, A.; Alfo, M.; Bruno, F. (2007). "Will dragonblood survive the next period of climate change? Current and future potential distribution of Dracaena cinnabari (Socotra, Yemen)". Biological Conservation. 138 (3–4): 430–439. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2007.05.009.
  18. ^ Retallack, Gregory (2001). "Cenozoic Expansion of Grasslands and Climatic Cooling" (PDF). The Journal of Geology. University of Chicago Press. 109 (4): 407–426. Bibcode:2001JG....109..407R. doi:10.1086/320791. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-05-06.
  19. ^ Osborne, C.P.; Beerling, D.J. (2006). "Nature's green revolution: the remarkable evolutionary rise of C4 plants". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 361 (1465): 173–194. doi:10.1098/rstb.2005.1737. PMC 1626541. PMID 16553316.
  20. ^ Wolfram M. Kürschner, Zlatko Kvacek & David L. Dilcher (2008). "The impact of Miocene atmospheric carbon dioxide fluctuations on climate and the evolution of terrestrial ecosystems". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 105 (2): 449–53. Bibcode:2008PNAS..105..449K. doi:10.1073/pnas.0708588105. PMC 2206556. PMID 18174330.
  21. ^ Susanne S. Renner (2011). "Living fossil younger than thought". Science. 334 (6057): 766–767. Bibcode:2011Sci...334..766R. doi:10.1126/science.1214649. PMID 22076366.
  22. ^ "Eucalyptus fossils in New Zealand - the thin end of the wedge - Mike Pole".
  23. ^ Steven M. Stanley (1999). Earth System History. New York: Freeman. pp. 525–526. ISBN 0-7167-2882-6.
  24. ^ Yirka, Bob (August 15, 2012). "New genetic data shows humans and great apes diverged earlier than thought". phys.org.
  25. ^ Begun, David. "Fossil Record of Miocene Hominoids" (PDF). University of Toronto. Retrieved July 11, 2014.
  26. ^ a b Holman, J. Alan (2000). Fossil Snakes of North America (First ed.). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. pp. 284–323. ISBN 0253337216.
  27. ^ Peter Klimley & David Ainley (1996). Great White Sharks: the Biology of Carcharodon carcharias. Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-415031-4. Archived from the original on 2012-10-12. Retrieved 2011-08-12.
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  29. ^ a b Olivier Lambert; Giovanni Bianucci; Klaas Post; Christian de Muizon; Rodolfo Salas-Gismondi; Mario Urbina; Jelle Reumer (2010). "The giant bite of a new raptorial sperm whale from the Miocene epoch of Peru". Nature. 466 (7302): 105–108. Bibcode:2010Natur.466..105L. doi:10.1038/nature09067. PMID 20596020.
  30. ^ Orangel A. Aguilera, Douglas Riff & Jean Bocquentin-Villanueva (2006). "A new giant Pusussaurus (Crocodyliformes, Alligatoridae) from the Upper Miocene Urumaco Formation, Venezuela" (PDF). Journal of Systematic Palaeontology. 4 (3): 221–232. doi:10.1017/S147720190600188X. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-29.
  31. ^ Lawrence G. Barnes & Kiyoharu Hirota (1994). "Miocene pinnipeds of the otariid subfamily Allodesminae in the North Pacific Ocean: systematics and relationships". Island Arc. 3 (4): 329–360. doi:10.1111/j.1440-1738.1994.tb00119.x.
  32. ^ Kenneth G. Miller & Richard G. Fairbanks (1983). "Evidence for Oligocene−Middle Miocene abyssal circulation changes in the western North Atlantic". Nature. 306 (5940): 250–253. Bibcode:1983Natur.306..250M. doi:10.1038/306250a0.
  33. ^ Bouley, S.; Baratoux, D.; Baratoux, L.; Colas, F.; Dauvergne, J.; Losiak, A.; Vaubaillon, J.; Bourdeille, C.; Jullien, A.; Ibadinov, K. (American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2011). "Karakul: a young complex impact crater in the Pamir, Tajikistan". Bibcode:2011AGUFM.P31A1701B.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
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Further reading

External links

Anatidae

The Anatidae are the biological family of water birds that includes ducks, geese, and swans. The family has a cosmopolitan distribution, occurring on all the world's continents. These birds are adapted for swimming, floating on the water surface, and in some cases diving in at least shallow water. The family contains around 146 species in 43 genera. (The magpie goose is no longer considered to be part of the Anatidae and is now placed in its own family, Anseranatidae.)

They are generally herbivorous, and are monogamous breeders. A number of species undertake annual migrations. A few species have been domesticated for agriculture, and many others are hunted for food and recreation. Five species have become extinct since 1600, and many more are threatened with extinction.

Anomalomyidae

Anomalomyidae is a family of extinct muroid rodents from Europe.

Apodemus

Apodemus is the genus of Muridae (true mice and rats) which contains the Eurasian field mice.

Cricetidae

The Cricetidae are a family of rodents in the large and complex superfamily Muroidea. It includes true hamsters, voles, lemmings, and New World rats and mice. At almost 608 species, it is the second-largest family of mammals, and has members throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia.

Cynarctina

Cynarctina is an extinct clade of the Borophaginae subfamily of canids native to North America.

They lived from the Early to Middle Miocene 16.0—10.3 Ma, existing for approximately 5.7 million years. Cynarctines had rounded cusps on the molar teeth, similar to those seen in living bears, suggesting that they were likely omnivores.

Early Miocene

The Early Miocene (also known as Lower Miocene) is a sub-epoch of the Miocene Epoch made up of two stages: the Aquitanian and Burdigalian stages.

The sub-epoch lasted from 23.03 ± 0.05 Ma to 15.97 ± 0.05 Ma (million years ago). It was preceded by the Oligocene epoch. As the climate started to get cooler, the landscape started to change. New mammals evolved to replace the extinct animals of the Oligocene epoch.The first members of the hyena and weasel family started to evolve to replace the extinct Hyaenodon, entelodonts and bear-dogs. The chalicotheres survived the Oligocene epoch. A new genus of entelodont called Daeodon evolved in order to adapt to the new habitats and hunt the new prey animals of the Early Miocene epoch; it quickly became the top predator of North America. But it became extinct due to competition from Amphicyon, a newcomer from Eurasia. Amphicyon bested Daeodon because the bear-dog's larger brain, sharper teeth and longer legs built for longer chases helped it to overcome its prey.

Finch

The true finches are small to medium-sized passerine birds in the family Fringillidae. Finches have stout conical bills adapted for eating seeds and often have colourful plumage. They occupy a great range of habitats where they are usually resident and do not migrate. They have a worldwide distribution except for Australia and the polar regions. The family includes species known as siskins, canaries, redpolls, serins, grosbeaks and euphonias.

Many birds in other families are also commonly called "finches". These groups include: the estrildid finches (Estrildidae) of the Old World tropics and Australia; some members of the Old World bunting family (Emberizidae) and the American sparrow family (Passerellidae); and the Darwin's finches of the Galapagos islands, now considered members of the tanager family (Thraupidae).Finches and canaries were used in the UK, Canada and USA in the coal mining industry, to detect carbon monoxide from the eighteenth to twentieth century. This practice ceased in the UK in 1986.

Hominidae

The Hominidae (), whose members are known as great apes or hominids, are a taxonomic family of primates that includes eight extant species in four genera: Pongo, the Bornean, Sumatran and Tapanuli orangutan; Gorilla, the eastern and western gorilla; Pan, the common chimpanzee and the bonobo; and Homo, which includes modern humans and their extinct relatives (e.g., the Neanderthal), and ancestors, such as Homo erectus.Several revisions in classifying the great apes have caused the use of the term "hominid" to vary over time. Its original meaning referred only to humans (Homo) and their closest extinct relatives. That restrictive meaning has now been largely assumed by the term "hominin", which comprises all members of the human clade after the split from the chimpanzees (Pan). The current, 21st-century meaning of "hominid" includes all the great apes including humans. Usage still varies, however, and some scientists and laypersons still use "hominid" in the original restrictive sense; the scholarly literature generally shows the traditional usage until around the turn of the 21st century.Within the taxon Hominidae, a number of extant and known extinct, that is, fossil, genera are grouped with the humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas in the subfamily Homininae; others with orangutans in the subfamily Ponginae (see classification graphic below). The most recent common ancestor of all Hominidae lived roughly 14 million years ago, when the ancestors of the orangutans speciated from the ancestral line of the other three genera. Those ancestors of the family Hominidae had already speciated from the family Hylobatidae (the gibbons), perhaps 15 million to 20 million years ago.

Hyena

Hyenas or hyaenas (from Greek ὕαινα hýaina) are any feliform carnivoran mammals of the family Hyaenidae . With only four extant species (in three genera), it is the fifth-smallest biological family in the Carnivora, and one of the smallest in the class Mammalia. Despite their low diversity, hyenas are unique and vital components of most African ecosystems.Although phylogenetically they are closer to felines and viverrids, and belong to the feliform category, hyenas are behaviourally and morphologically similar to canines in several elements of convergent evolution; both hyenas and canines are non-arboreal, cursorial hunters that catch prey with their teeth rather than claws. Both eat food quickly and may store it, and their calloused feet with large, blunt, nonretractable claws are adapted for running and making sharp turns. However, the hyenas' grooming, scent marking, defecating habits, mating and parental behaviour are consistent with the behaviour of other feliforms.Spotted hyenas may kill as many as 95% of the animals they eat, while striped hyenas are largely scavengers. Generally, hyenas are known to drive off larger predators, like lions, from their kills, despite having a reputation in popular culture for being cowardly. Hyenas are primarily nocturnal animals, but sometimes venture from their lairs in the early-morning hours. With the exception of the highly social spotted hyena, hyenas are generally not gregarious animals, though they may live in family groups and congregate at kills.Hyenas first arose in Eurasia during the Miocene period from viverrid-like ancestors, and diversified into two distinct types: lightly built dog-like hyenas and robust bone-crushing hyenas. Although the dog-like hyenas thrived 15 million years ago (with one taxon having colonised North America), they became extinct after a change in climate along with the arrival of canids into Eurasia. Of the dog-like hyena lineage, only the insectivorous aardwolf survived, while the bone-crushing hyenas (including the extant spotted, brown and striped hyenas) became the undisputed top scavengers of Eurasia and Africa.Hyenas feature prominently in the folklore and mythology of human cultures that live alongside them. Hyenas are commonly viewed as frightening and worthy of contempt. In some cultures, hyenas are thought to influence people’s spirits, rob graves, and steal livestock and children. Other cultures associate them with witchcraft, using their body parts in traditional African medicine.

Late Miocene

The Late Miocene (also known as Late Miocene

) is a sub-epoch of the Miocene Epoch made up of two stages. The Tortonian and Messinian stages comprise the Late Miocene sub-epoch.

The sub-epoch lasted from 11.63 Ma (million years ago) to 5.333 Ma. The Late Miocene Period was when the Australian and Central African species, respectively Thylacinus potens and Amphimachairodus kabir, lived.

List of fossil bird genera

Birds evolved from certain feathered theropod dinosaurs, and there is no real dividing line between birds and dinosaurs, except of course that some of the former survived the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event while the latter did not. For the purposes of this article, a 'bird' is considered to be any member of the clade Aves sensu lato. Some dinosaur groups which may or may not be true birds are listed below under Proto-birds.

This page contains a listing of prehistoric bird taxa only known from completely fossilized specimens. These extinctions took place before the Late Quaternary and thus took place in the absence of significant human interference. While the earliest hominids had been eating birds and especially their eggs, human population and technology was simply insufficient to seriously affect healthy bird populations until the Upper Paleolithic Revolution. Rather, reasons for the extinctions listed here are stochastic abiotic events such as bolide impacts, climate change due to orbital shifts, mass volcanic eruptions etc. Alternatively, species may have gone extinct due to evolutionary displacement by successor or competitor taxa – it is notable that an extremely large number of seabirds have gone extinct during the mid-Tertiary; this seems at least partly due to competition by the contemporary radiation of marine mammals.

The relationships of these taxa are often hard to determine, as many are known only from very fragmentary remains and due to the complete fossilization precluding analysis of information from DNA, RNA or protein sequencing. The taxa listed in this article should be classified with the Wikipedia conservation status category "Fossil".

Before the late 19th century, when minerals were still considered one of the kingdoms of binomial nomenclature, fossils were often treated according to a parallel taxonomy. Rather than assigning them to animal or plant genera, they were treated as mineral genera and given binomial names typically using Osteornis ("bone-bird") or Ornitholithus ("bird fossil") as "genus". The latter name, however, is still in use for an oogenus of fossil bird eggs. Also, other animals (in particular pterosaurs) were placed in these "genera". In sources pre-dating the Linnean system, the above terms are also seen in the more extensive descriptions used to name taxa back then.

List of fossil sites

This list of fossil sites is a worldwide list of localities known well for the presence of fossils. Some entries in this list are notable for a single, unique find, while others are notable for the large number of fossils found there. Many of the entries in this list are considered Lagerstätten (sedimentary deposits that exhibits extraordinary fossils with exceptional preservation—sometimes including preserved soft issues). Lagerstätten are indicated by a note () in the noteworthiness column.

Fossils may be found either associated with a geological formation or at a single geographic site. Geological formations consist of rock that was deposited during a specific period of time. They usually extend for large areas, and sometimes there are different important sites in which the same formation is exposed. Such sites may have separate entries if they are considered to be more notable than the formation as a whole. In contrast, extensive formations associated with large areas may be equivalently represented at many locations. Such formations may be listed either without a site, with a site or sites that represents the type locality, or with multiple sites of note. When a type locality is listed as the site for a formation with many good outcrops, the site is flagged with a note (). When a particular site of note is listed for an extensive fossil-bearing formation, but that site is somehow atypical, it is also flagged with a note ().

Many formations are for all practical purposes only studied at a single site, and may not even be named. For example, sites associated with hominin, particularly caves, are frequently not identified with a named geologic formation. Therefore, some sites are listed without an associated formation.

Mastodon

Mastodons (Greek: μαστός "breast" and ὀδούς, "tooth") are any species of extinct proboscideans in the genus Mammut (family Mammutidae), distantly related to elephants, that inhabited North and Central America during the late Miocene or late Pliocene up to their extinction at the end of the Pleistocene 10,000 to 11,000 years ago. Mastodons lived in herds and were predominantly forest-dwelling animals that fed on a mixed diet obtained by browsing and grazing with a seasonal preference for browsing, similar to living elephants.

M. americanum, the American mastodon, and M. pacificus, the Pacific mastodon, are the youngest and best-known species of the genus. Mastodons disappeared from North America as part of a mass extinction of most of the Pleistocene megafauna, widely believed to have been caused by overexploitation by Clovis hunters.

Megalodon

Megalodon (Carcharocles megalodon), meaning "big tooth", is an extinct species of shark that lived approximately 23 to 3.6 million years ago (mya), during the Early Miocene to the end of the Pliocene. It was formerly thought to be a member of the family Lamnidae, making it closely related to the great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias). However presently there is near unanimous consensus that it belongs to the extinct family Otodontidae, which diverged from the ancestry of the great white shark during the Early Cretaceous. Its genus placement is still debated, authors placing it in either Carcharocles, Megaselachus, Otodus, or Procarcharodon.

Scientists suggest that megalodon looked like a stockier version of the great white shark, though some experts believe it may have looked similar to the basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) or the sand tiger shark (Carcharias taurus). Regarded as one of the largest and most powerful predators to have ever lived, fossil remains of megalodon suggest that this giant shark reached a maximum length of 18 meters (59 ft) with the average size being 10.5 meters (34 ft). Their large jaws could exert a bite force of up to 110,000 to 180,000 newtons (25,000 to 40,000 lbf). Their teeth were thick and robust, built for grabbing prey and breaking bone.

Megalodon probably had a major impact on the structure of marine communities. The fossil record indicates that it had a cosmopolitan distribution. It probably targeted large prey, such as whales, seals, and sea turtles. Juveniles inhabited warm coastal waters and fed on fish and small whales. Unlike the great white, which attacks prey from the soft underside, megalodon probably used its strong jaws to break through the chest cavity and puncture the heart and lungs of its prey.

The animal faced competition from whale-eating cetaceans, such as Livyatan and other macroraptorial sperm whales, and smaller ancestral killer whales such as Orcinus citoniensis. As the shark preferred warmer waters, it is thought that oceanic cooling associated with the onset of the ice ages, coupled with the lowering of sea levels and resulting loss of suitable nursery areas, may have also contributed to its decline. A reduction in the diversity of baleen whales and a shift in their distribution toward polar regions may have reduced megalodon's primary food source. More recently, evidence has come forward that competition from the modern great white shark may have also contributed to the extinction of megalodon, coupled with range fragmentation resulting in a gradual, asynchronous extinction as a result of cooling oceans around 3.6-4 million years ago, far earlier than previously assumed. The extinction of the shark appeared to affect other animals; for example, the size of baleen whales increased significantly after the shark had disappeared.

Middle Miocene

The Middle Miocene is a sub-epoch of the Miocene Epoch made up of two stages: the Langhian and Serravallian stages. The Middle Miocene is preceded by the Early Miocene.

The sub-epoch lasted from 15.97 ± 0.05 Ma to 11.608 ± 0.005 Ma (million years ago). During this period, a sharp drop in global temperatures took place. This event is known as the Middle Miocene Climate Transition.

For the purposes of establishing European Land Mammal Ages this sub-epoch is equivalent to the Astaracian age.

Oligocene

The Oligocene ( ) is a geologic epoch of the Paleogene Period and extends from about 33.9 million to 23 million years before the present (33.9±0.1 to 23.03±0.05 Ma). As with other older geologic periods, the rock beds that define the epoch are well identified but the exact dates of the start and end of the epoch are slightly uncertain. The name Oligocene was coined in 1854 by the German paleontologist Heinrich Ernst Beyrich; the name comes from the Ancient Greek ὀλίγος (olígos, "few") and καινός (kainós, "new"), and refers to the sparsity of extant forms of molluscs. The Oligocene is preceded by the Eocene Epoch and is followed by the Miocene Epoch. The Oligocene is the third and final epoch of the Paleogene Period.

The Oligocene is often considered an important time of transition, a link between the archaic world of the tropical Eocene and the more modern ecosystems of the Miocene. Major changes during the Oligocene included a global expansion of grasslands, and a regression of tropical broad leaf forests to the equatorial belt.

The start of the Oligocene is marked by a notable extinction event called the Grande Coupure; it featured the replacement of European fauna with Asian fauna, except for the endemic rodent and marsupial families. By contrast, the Oligocene–Miocene boundary is not set at an easily identified worldwide event but rather at regional boundaries between the warmer late Oligocene and the relatively cooler Miocene.

Opossum

The opossum ( or ) is a marsupial of the order Didelphimorphia () endemic to the Americas. The largest order of marsupials in the Western Hemisphere, it comprises 103 or more species in 19 genera. Opossums originated in South America and entered North America in the Great American Interchange following the connection of the two continents. Their unspecialized biology, flexible diet, and reproductive habits make them successful colonizers and survivors in diverse locations and conditions.Although the animal is often called a possum in North America, which would refer to the Virginia opossum species, it should not be confused with the suborder Phalangeriformes, which are arboreal marsupials in the Eastern Hemisphere also called "possums" because of their resemblance to Didelphimorphia.

Ostrich

The ostriches are a family, Struthionidae, of flightless birds. The two extant species of ostrich are the common ostrich and Somali ostrich, both in the genus Struthio, which also contains several species known from Holocene fossils such as the Asian ostrich. The common ostrich is the more widespread of the two living species, and is the largest living bird species. Other ostriches are also among the largest bird species ever.

Ostriches first appeared during the Miocene epoch, though various Paleocene, Eocene, and Oligocene fossils may also belong to the family. Ostriches are classified in the ratite group of birds, all extant species of which are flightless, including the kiwis, emus, and rheas. Traditionally, the order Struthioniformes contained all the ratites. However, recent genetic analysis has found that the group is not monophyletic, as it is paraphyletic with respect to the tinamous, so the ostriches are classified as the only members of the order.

Pliocene

The Pliocene ( ; also Pleiocene) Epoch is the epoch in the geologic timescale that extends from 5.333 million to 2.58 million years BP. It is the second and youngest epoch of the Neogene Period in the Cenozoic Era. The Pliocene follows the Miocene Epoch and is followed by the Pleistocene Epoch. Prior to the 2009 revision of the geologic time scale, which placed the four most recent major glaciations entirely within the Pleistocene, the Pliocene also included the Gelasian stage, which lasted from 2.588 to 1.806 million years ago, and is now included in the Pleistocene.As with other older geologic periods, the geological strata that define the start and end are well identified but the exact dates of the start and end of the epoch are slightly uncertain. The boundaries defining the Pliocene are not set at an easily identified worldwide event but rather at regional boundaries between the warmer Miocene and the relatively cooler Pliocene. The upper boundary was set at the start of the Pleistocene glaciations.

Cenozoic era
(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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