New Zealand geologic time scale

While also using the international geologic time scale, many nations - especially those with isolated and therefore non-standard prehistories - use their own system of dividing geologic time into epochs and faunal stages.

In New Zealand, these epochs and stages use local place names (mainly Maori in origin) back to the Permian. Prior to this time, they largely use the same terms as used in the Australian geologic time scale, and are not divided into epochs. In practice, these early terms are rarely used, as most New Zealand geology is of more recent origin. In all cases, New Zealand uses the same periods as used internationally; it is only the subdivisions of these periods that have been renamed. Very few epochs and stages cross international period boundaries. Of those that do, almost all are within the Cenozoic Era.

Though the New Zealand geologic time scale has not been formally adopted, it has become widely used by New Zealand earth scientists, geologists and palaeontologists since its proposal by J. S. Crampton in 1995.

A standard abbreviation is also used for these epochs and stages, mostly in the form Xx where the first letter is the initial letter of the epoch and the second (lower-case) letter is the initial letter of the stage. These are listed alongside the stage names in the list below.

Currently, we are in the Haweran stage of the Wanganui epoch. The Haweran, which started some 340,000 years ago, is named after the North Island town of Hawera.

List of New Zealand geologic time epochs and stages

Times given indicate the start of the respective stages and epochs. Several of these stages are further divided into upper and lower or upper, middle, and lower, although this has not been noted below unless unique names have been given to these sub-stages. As with the international geologic scale, these epochs and stages are largely named for locales where rock dating from these time periods is in evidence, with stage names predominantly but not always named for locales close to their epoch's namesake site. Where known, these places are also linked in the list below.

Cenozoic Era

Name Abbreviation Start date (Ma) International equivalent Named after
Wanganui epoch W Pliocene, Pleistocene and Holocene Wanganui
Haweran stage Wq 0.34 Hawera
Castlecliffian stage Wc 1.63 Castlecliff (suburb of Wanganui)
Nukumaruan stage Wn 2.40 Nukumaru, near Waitotara
Mangapanian stage Wm 3.00 Mangapani
Waipipian stage Wp 3.60 Waipipi
Opoitian stage Wo 5.33 Opoiti, near Wairoa
Taranaki epoch T Upper Miocene Taranaki
Kapitean stage Tk 7.2 Kapitea Creek, near Kumara
Tongaporutuan stage Tt 11.01 Tongaporutu
Southland epoch S Middle Miocene Southland
Waiauan stage Sw 12.98 Waiau River
Lillburnian stage Sl 15.1 Lill Burn, Southland
Clifdenian stage Sc 15.9 Clifden, Southland
Pareora epoch P Lower Miocene Pareora
Altonian stage Pl 18.7 Alton Burn, Southland
Otaian stage Po 21.7 Otaio
Landon epoch L Oligocene to Lower Miocene Landon Creek, Pukeuri
Waitakian stage Lw 25.2 Waitaki River
Duntroonian stage Ld 27.3 Duntroon
Whaingaroan stage Lwh 34.5 Whaingaroa (Raglan Harbour)
Arnold epoch A Middle to Upper Eocene Arnold River
Runangan stage Ar 36.0 Runanga
Kaiatan stage Ak 38.4 Kaiata, near Greymouth
Bortonian stage Ab 42.77 Bortons, near Duntroon
Dannevirke epoch D Lower Palaeocene to Middle Eocene Dannevirke
Porangan stage Dp 45.3 Poranga
Heretaungan stage Dh 49.3 Heretaunga
Mangaorapan stage Dm 53.3 Mangaorapa, southern Hawke's Bay
Waipawan stage Dw 55.8 Waipawa
Teurian stage Dt 65.5 Te Uri

Mesozoic Era

Cretaceous Period

Name Abbreviation Start date (Ma) Named after
Mata epoch M
Haumurian stage Mh 84.0 Haumuri Bluff
Piripauan stage Mp 86.5 Piripaua (Spyglass Point), Kaikoura District
Raukumara epoch R Raukumara Range
Teratan stage Rt 89.1 Te Rata, Gisborne District
Mangaotanean stage Rm 92.1 Mangaotane, Gisborne District
Arowhanan stage Ra 95.2 Arowhana, Gisborne District
Clarence epoch C Clarence River
Ngaterian stage Cn 100.2 Ngateretere, Bay of Plenty Region
Motuan stage Cm 103.3 Motu River
Urutawan stage Cu 108.4 Urutawa, a hill north of Matawai
Taitai epoch U Taitai, a hill near Ruatoria
Korangan stage Uk 117.5 Koranga
Undifferentiated Taitai 145.5

Jurassic Period

Name Abbreviation Start date (Ma) Named after
Oteke epoch O Otaka Stream, Waikato
Puaroan stage [1] Op 148.5 Puaroa Stream, Waikato
Kawhia epoch K Kawhia Harbour
Ohauan stage Ko 153.5 Nathan Point/Ohaua, Kawhia Harbour
Heterian stage Kh 157.5 Heteri Point, Kawhia Harbour
Temaikan stage Kt 175.6 Te Maika, Kawhia Harbour
Herangi epoch H Herangi, Aotea Harbour
Ururoan stage Hu 188.0 Ururoa Point, Kawhia Harbour
Aratauran stage Ha 199.6 Arataura Point, near Kawhia Harbour

Triassic Period

Name Abbreviation Start date (Ma) Named after
Balfour epoch B Balfour
Otapirian stage Bo 204.6 Otapiri, near Winton
Warepan stage [2] Bw 212.0 Warepa, near Balclutha
Otamitan stage Bm 217.0 Otamita Stream, Hokonui Hills
Oretian stage Br 227.5 Oreti River
Gore epoch G Gore
Kaihikuan stage Gk 238.5 Kaihiku Stream, The Catlins
Etalian stage Ge 244.5
Malakovian stage Gm 245.5
Nelsonian stage Gn 250.4 Nelson
Makarewan stage (see Permian Period, below)

Palaeozoic Era

Permian Period

Name Abbreviation Start date (Ma) Named after
D'Urville epoch YD D'Urville Island
Makarewan stage YDm 253.8 Makarewa River
Waiitian stage YDw ? Wai-iti River
Puruhauan stage YDp 260.4 Puruhaua Stream, The Catlins
Aparima epoch [3] YA Aparima River
Flettian stage YAf 266.5 Flett's Hut, Takitimu Range
Barettian stage YAr 273.0 Barrett's Hut, Takitimu Range
Mangapirian stage YAm 280.0 Mangapiri Downs, east of Lake Monowai
Telfordian stage YAt 283.0 Telford Burn, Takitimu Range
Pre-Telfordian epoch (not subdivided into stages) Ypt 299.0

Carboniferous Period

Name Abbreviation Start date (Ma)
Carboniferous Period (not subdivided) F 359.2

Devonian Period

Stages prior to the beginning of the Carboniferous Period use either international (Devonian/Silurian) or Australian (Ordovician/Cambrian) geologic stage names; very little New Zealand rock is known from these geologic periods.

Name Abbreviation Start date (Ma)
Upper Devonian epoch JU
Famennian stage 374.5
Frasnian stage 385.3
Middle Devonian epoch JM
Givetian stage 391.8
Eifelian stage 397.5
Lower Devonian epoch JL
Emsian stage Jem 407.0
Pragian stage Jpr 411.2
Lochkovian stage Jlo 417.2

Silurian Period

Name Abbreviation Start date (Ma)
Pridoli epoch (not subdivided into stages) Epr 419.7
Ludlow epoch Elu
Ludfordian stage 422.0
Gorstian stage 423.5
Wenlock epoch Ewe
Homerian stage 426.2
Sheinwoodian stage 428.4
Llandovery epoch Ela
Telychian stage 435.9
Aeronian stage 439.7
Rhuddanian stage 443.2

Ordovician Period

Name Abbreviation Start date (Ma)
Upper Ordovician epoch
Bolindian stage Vbo 449.7
Eastonian stage Vea 456.1
Gisbornian stage Vgi 460.5
Middle Ordovician epoch
Darriwilian stage Vda 468.1
Yapeenian stage Vya 468.9
Castlemainian stage Vca 472.0
Lower Ordovician epoch
Chewtonian stage Vch 473.9
Bendigonian stage Vbe 476.8
Lancefieldian stage Vla 488.7
Pre-Lancefieldian stage Vpl 490.0

Cambrian Period

Name Abbreviation Start date (Ma)
Datsonian stage Xda 491.5
Payntonian stage Xpa 494.0
Iverian stage Xiv 498.5
Idamean stage Xid 501.0
Mindyallan stage Xmi 503.0
Boomerangian stage Xbo 504.0
Undillan stage Xun 505.0
Floran stage Xfl 507.0
Ordian/Templetonian stage Xor 513.0
Early Cambrian (not subdivided) XL 542.0

Proterozoic and Archaean Aeons

Name Abbreviation Start date (Ma)
(Not subdivided) Z

Footnotes to time scale

  1. ^ This stage is sometimes further divided into Mangaoran (lower) and Waikatoan (upper). These are named after Mangaora Inlet (an arm of Kawhia Harbour) and the Waikato River.
  2. ^ This stage is sometimes further divided into Kiriteherean (lower) and Marokopan (upper). These are named after the Marokopa River and the nearby Kiritehere Stream.
  3. ^ Until the late 1960s, the Flettian and Barettian stages were together known as the Braxtonian stage (see Waterhouse 1969). This was named for Braxton Burn, a stream near Mossburn.

See also


  • Bishop, D.G., and Turnbull, I.M. (compilers) (1996). Geology of the Dunedin Area. Lower Hutt, NZ: Institute of Geological & Nuclear Sciences. ISBN 0-478-09521-X.
  • Hollis, C.J., Beu, A.G., Crampton, J.S., Crundwell, M.P., Morgans, H.E.G., Raine, J.I., Jones, C.M., Boyes, A.F. (2010). Calibration of the New Zealand Cretaceous - Cenozoic Timescale to GTS2004, GNS Science Report, 2010/43, 20p.
  • Waterhouse, J.B. (1969). "World correlations of New Zealand Permian stages," New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics, 12:4, pp. 713-737

External links


Not to be confused with the Bortonian of the New Zealand geologic time scale.The Bartonian is, in the ICS's geologic time scale, a stage or age in the middle Eocene epoch or series. The Bartonian age spans the time between 41.2 and 37.8 Ma. It is preceded by the Lutetian and is followed by the Priabonian age.


In stratigraphy, paleontology, geology, and geobiology an erathem is the total stratigraphic unit deposited during a certain corresponding span of time during an era in the geologic timescale.

It can therefore be used as a chronostratigraphic unit of time which delineates a large span of years — less than a geological eon, but greater than its successively smaller and more refined subdivisions (geologic periods, epochs, and geologic ages). By 3,500 million years ago (mya) simple life had developed on earth (the oldest known microbial fossils in Australia are dated to this figure). The atmosphere was a mix of noxious and poisonous gases (Methane, Ammonia, Sulphur compounds, etc.— a so-called reducing atmosphere lacking much free oxygen which was bound up in compounds).

These simple organisms, Cyanobacteria ruled the still cooling earth for approximately a thousand million (over a billion) years and gradually transformed the atmosphere to one containing free oxygen. These changes, along with tectonic activity left chemical trails (red bed formation, etc.) and other physical clues (magnetic orientation, layer formation factors) in the rock record, and it is these changes along with the later richer fossil record which specialists use to demarcate times early in planet earth's history in various disciplines.

Erathems are not often used in practice. While they are subdivisions of eonothems and are themselves subdivided into systems, dating experts prefer the finer resolution of smaller spans of time when evaluating strata.

Erathems have the same names as their corresponding eras.

The Phanerozoic eonothem can thus be divided into a

Cenozoic, a Mesozoic and a Paleozoic erathem or matching era name.Similarly, the Proterozoic eonothem is divided youngest to oldest into the

Neoproterozoic, Mesoproterozoic and Paleoproterozoic erathems,

and the Archean eon and eonothem are divided similarly into the

Neoarchean, Mesoarchean, Paleoarchean and the Eoarchean, for which a lower (oldest) limit is undefined.

Geologic time scale

The geologic time scale (GTS) is a system of chronological dating that relates geological strata (stratigraphy) to time. It is used by geologists, paleontologists, and other Earth scientists to describe the timing and relationships of events that have occurred during Earth's history. The table of geologic time spans, presented here, agree with the nomenclature, dates and standard color codes set forth by the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS).

Geology of New Zealand

The geology of New Zealand is noted for its volcanic activity, earthquakes and geothermal areas because of its position on the boundary of the Australian Plate and Pacific Plates. New Zealand is part of Zealandia, a microcontinent nearly half the size of Australia that broke away from the Gondwanan supercontinent about 83 million years ago. New Zealand's early separation from other landmasses and subsequent evolution have created a unique fossil record and modern ecology.

New Zealand's geology can be simplified into three phases. First the basement rocks of New Zealand formed. These rocks were once part of the super-continent of Gondwana, along with South America, Africa, Madagascar, India, Antarctica and Australia. The rocks that now form the, mostly submerged, continent of Zealandia were then nestled between Eastern Australia and Western Antarctica. Secondly New Zealand drifted away from Gondwana and many sedimentary basins formed, which later became the sedimentary rocks covering the geological basement. The final phase is represented by the uplift of the Southern Alps and the eruptions of the Taupo Volcanic Zone.

Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point

A Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point, abbreviated GSSP, is an internationally agreed upon reference point on a stratigraphic section which defines the lower boundary of a stage on the geologic time scale. The effort to define GSSPs is conducted by the International Commission on Stratigraphy, a part of the International Union of Geological Sciences. Most, but not all, GSSPs are based on paleontological changes. Hence GSSPs are usually described in terms of transitions between different faunal stages, though far more faunal stages have been described than GSSPs. The GSSP definition effort commenced in 1977. As of 2012, 64 of the 101 stages that need a GSSP have been formally defined.

Haumuri Bluff

Haumuri Bluff (also known as Amuri Bluff) is a headland on the coast of New Zealand's South Island on the south side of Piripaua (Spyglass Point), located several kilometres south of Oaro. It has been a major palaeontological site since the mid-19th century, and has lent its name to the Haumurian stage in the New Zealand geologic time scale.

List of New Zealand animals extinct in the Holocene

This is an incomplete list of extinct animals of New Zealand. This list covers only extinctions from the Holocene epoch.

List of geochronologic names

This is a list of official and unofficial names for time spans in the geologic timescale and units of chronostratigraphy. Since many of the smallest subdivisions of the geologic timescale were in the past defined on regional lithostratigraphic units, there are many alternative names that overlap. The body concerned with standardizing the names of geochronologic units is the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS). In 2008 however, even though the Phanerozoic eon is almost completely divided into internationally recognizable units, local subdivisions are often still preferred over the international ones.

List of timelines

This is a list of timelines currently on Wikipedia.

Raukumara Range

The Raukumara Range lies north of Gisborne, near East Cape in New Zealand's North Island. It forms part of the North Island's main mountain chain, which runs north-northeast from Wellington to East Cape, and is composed primarily of Cretaceous greywacke, argillites, siltstones and sandstones. An epoch of the New Zealand geologic time scale lasting from 95.2 to 86.5 Mya is named the Raukumara Epoch after the range.

The North Island's highest non-volcanic peak, Mount Hikurangi (1755 m/5758 ft), is part of this range. Other prominent peaks include Maungahaumi (1213 m/3979 ft), Mount Aorangi (1272 m/4173 ft), Mount Arowhana (1440 m/4724 ft), and Mount Raukumara (1343 m/4404 ft).

Southland Syncline

The Southland Syncline is a major geological structure located in the Southland Region of New Zealand's South Island. The syncline folds the Mesozoic greywackes of the Murihiku Terrane. The northern limb of the fold is steep to overturned, while the southern limb dips shallowly to the northeast. The axial plan dips to the northeast and the axis plunges to the southeast.The Murihiku Terrane is formed predominantly from Permian to Jurassic sedimentary rocks with minor igneous intrusions, and is marked by prominent strike ridges particularly on its northern limb due to the steeper dip. These are created from the erosion of alternating strata of sandstone and mudstone. The northern edge of this fold system is marked by the Murihiku Escarpment, at the southern extreme of the Waimea Plains. Many of the names of stages and epochs in the Permian, Triassic, and Jurassic periods in the New Zealand geologic time scale are named for places within or close to the Southland Syncline and Murihiku Terrane.

The ridges run northwest from the Pacific coast in the Catlins to the Takitimu Range, and includes the Hokonui Hills, which rise above the otherwise flat land of the Southland Plains (to the south) and Waimea Plains (to the north). The syncline dates from the Cretaceous, though the Hokonui Hills are caused by more recent uplift.In the west, the syncline meets the country's largest fault system, the Alpine Fault. This fault is a transform fault for much of its length, and as such the westernmost part of the Southland Syncline is not found in the Southland Region, but continues several hundred kilometres to the north in the Nelson-Tasman area. The same fold is found as far north as the Auckland Region where it is called the Kaimango Syncline.

Stratigraphy of New Zealand

This is a list of the units into which the rock succession of New Zealand is formally divided. As new geological relationships have been discovered new names have been proposed and others are made obsolete. Not all these changes have been universally adopted. This table is based on the 2014 New Zealand Stratigraphic Lexicon (Litho2014). However, obsolete names that are still in use and names postdating the lexicon are included if it aids in understanding.Names for particular rock units have two parts, a proper name which is almost always a geographic location where the rock is found and a hierarchical rank (e.g. Waitematā Group). This ranking system starts with individual 'beds' of rock which can be grouped into 'members', members are grouped into 'formations', formations into 'subgroups' then 'groups'. In New Zealand, groups are further combined into 'supergroups' or for basement rocks into terranes. Not all of these hierarchical layers are necessarily present within a particular rock succession. Many New Zealand rocks can also have names based on their major rock types, such as the Wooded Peak Limestone or the Hawks Crag Breccia.

Tahora Formation

The Tahora Formation is a Late Cretaceous geologic formation that outcrops in northeastern New Zealand near Gisborne. It is Haumurian in age according to the New Zealand geologic time scale (mainly Campanian, but ranging from Santonian to lower Maastrichtian). It forms part of the Upper Cretaceous to Teurian (Danian) (lower Paleocene) Tinui Group. It unconformably overlies the Jurassic to Lower Cretaceous Urewera Group or the Upper Cretaceous Matawai Group. It is conformably overlain by the Haumurian to Teurian Whangai Formation. It consist of three members, the Maungataniwha Sandstone Member, the Mutuera Member and the Houpapa Member. It is named for Tahora Station, south of Matawai in the Gisborne Region. The aptly named Maungataniwha (Māori for "mountain of monsters") Sandstone Member is known for its rich reptile fossil remains, first investigated by amateur palaeontologist Joan Wiffen.


Zygorhiza ("Yoke-Root") is an extinct genus of basilosaurid early whale known from the Late Eocene (Priabonian, 38–34 Ma) of Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi, United States, and the Bortonian (43–37 Ma on the New Zealand geologic time scale) to the late Eocene of New Zealand (43 to 33.9 million years ago).

Specimens reported from Europe are considered Dorudontinae incertae sedis.Zygorhiza kochii, along with Basilosaurus under the designation "prehistoric whales", is the state fossil of Mississippi. The mounted specimen in the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson is commonly referred to as "Ziggy".

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