The Paleozoic (or Palaeozoic) Era ( /ˌpeɪliəˈzoʊɪk, ˌpæ-/; from the Greek palaios (παλαιός), "old" and zoe (ζωή), "life", meaning "ancient life") is the earliest of three geologic eras of the Phanerozoic Eon. It is the longest of the Phanerozoic eras, lasting from , and is subdivided into six geologic periods (from oldest to youngest): the Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous, and Permian. The Paleozoic comes after the Neoproterozoic Era of the Proterozoic Eon and is followed by the Mesozoic Era.
The Paleozoic was a time of dramatic geological, climatic, and evolutionary change. The Cambrian witnessed the most rapid and widespread diversification of life in Earth's history, known as the Cambrian explosion, in which most modern phyla first appeared. Arthropods, molluscs, fish, amphibians, synapsids and diapsids all evolved during the Paleozoic. Life began in the ocean but eventually transitioned onto land, and by the late Paleozoic, it was dominated by various forms of organisms. Great forests of primitive plants covered the continents, many of which formed the coal beds of Europe and eastern North America. Towards the end of the era, large, sophisticated diapsids and synapsids were dominant and the first modern plants (conifers) appeared.
The Paleozoic Era ended with the largest extinction event in the history of Earth, the Permian–Triassic extinction event. The effects of this catastrophe were so devastating that it took life on land 30 million years into the Mesozoic Era to recover. Recovery of life in the sea may have been much faster.
541–251.902 million years ago
The Paleozoic era began and ended with supercontinents and in between were the rise of mountains along the continental margins, and flooding and draining of shallow seas between the mountain ranges, in the interior of the continents. At its start, the supercontinent Pannotia broke up. Paleoclimatic studies and evidence of glaciers indicate that central Africa was most likely in the polar regions during the early Paleozoic. During the early Paleozoic, the huge continent Gondwana ( ) formed or was forming. By mid-Paleozoic, the collision of North America and Europe produced the Acadian-Caledonian uplifts, and a subduction plate uplifted eastern Australia. By the late Paleozoic, continental collisions formed the supercontinent of Pangaea and resulted in some of the great mountain chains, including the Appalachians, Ural Mountains, and mountains of Tasmania.
There are six periods in the Paleozoic Era: Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous (alternatively subdivided into the Mississippian Period and the Pennsylvanian Period), and the Permian.
The Cambrian spans from 541 million years to 485 million years and is the first period of the Paleozoic era of the Phanerozoic. The Cambrian marked a boom in evolution in an event known as the Cambrian explosion in which the largest number of creatures evolved in any single period of the history of the Earth. Creatures like algae evolved, but the most ubiquitous of that period were the armored arthropods, like trilobites. Almost all marine phyla evolved in this period. During this time, the supercontinent Pannotia begins to break up, most of which later became the supercontinent Gondwana.
The Ordovician spanned from approximately 485 million years to approximately 443 million years ago. The Ordovician was a time in Earth's history in which many of the biological classes still prevalent today evolved, such as primitive fish, cephalopods, and coral. The most common forms of life, however, were trilobites, snails and shellfish. More importantly, the first arthropods went ashore to colonize the empty continent of Gondwana. By the end of the Ordovician, Gondwana was at the south pole, early North America had collided with Europe, closing the Atlantic Ocean. Glaciation of Africa resulted in a major drop in sea level, killing off all life that had established along coastal Gondwana. Glaciation may have caused the Ordovician–Silurian extinction events, in which 60% of marine invertebrates and 25% of families became extinct, and is considered the first mass extinction event and the second deadliest.
The Silurian spanned from 443 to 416 million years ago. The Silurian saw the rejuvenation of life as the Earth recovered from the previous glaciation. This period saw the mass evolution of fish, as jawless fish became more numerous, jawed fish evolved, and the first freshwater fish evolved, though arthropods, such as sea scorpions, were still apex predators. Fully terrestrial life evolved, including early arachnids, fungi, and centipedes. The evolution of vascular plants (Cooksonia) allowed plants to gain a foothold on land. These early plants were the forerunners of all plant life on land. During this time, there were four continents: Gondwana (Africa, South America, Australia, Antarctica, Siberia), Laurentia (North America), Baltica (Northern Europe), and Avalonia (Western Europe). The recent rise in sea levels allowed many new species to thrive in water.
The Devonian spanned from 416 million years to 359 million years ago. Also known as "The Age of the Fish", the Devonian featured a huge diversification of fish, including armored fish like Dunkleosteus and lobe-finned fish which eventually evolved into the first tetrapods. On land, plant groups diversified incredibly in an event known as the Devonian Explosion when plants made lignin allowing taller growth and vascular tissue: the first trees evolved, as well as seeds. This event also diversified arthropod life, by providing them new habitats. The first amphibians also evolved, and the fish were now at the top of the food chain. Near the end of the Devonian, 70% of all species became extinct in an event known as the Late Devonian extinction, which was the Earth's second mass extinction event.
The Carboniferous spanned from 359 million to 299 million years ago. During this time, average global temperatures were exceedingly high; the early Carboniferous averaged at about 20 degrees Celsius (but cooled to 10 °C during the Middle Carboniferous). Tropical swamps dominated the Earth, and the lignin stiffened trees grew to greater heights and number. As the bacteria and fungi capable of eating the lignin had not yet evolved, their remains were left buried, which created much of the carbon that became the coal deposits of today (hence the name "Carboniferous"). Perhaps the most important evolutionary development of the time was the evolution of amniotic eggs, which allowed amphibians to move farther inland and remain the dominant vertebrates for the duration of this period. Also, the first reptiles and synapsids evolved in the swamps. Throughout the Carboniferous, there was a cooling trend, which led to the Permo-Carboniferous glaciation or the Carboniferous Rainforest Collapse. Gondwana was glaciated as much of it was situated around the south pole.
The Permian spanned from 299 to 252 million years ago and was the last period of the Paleozoic Era. At the beginning of this period, all continents joined together to form the supercontinent Pangaea, which was encircled by one ocean called Panthalassa. The land mass was very dry during this time, with harsh seasons, as the climate of the interior of Pangaea was not regulated by large bodies of water. Diapsids and synapsids flourished in the new dry climate. Creatures such as Dimetrodon and Edaphosaurus ruled the new continent. The first conifers evolved, and dominated the terrestrial landscape. Near the end of the Permian, however, Pangaea grew drier. The interior was desert, and new species such as Scutosaurus and Gorgonopsids filled it. Eventually they disappeared, along with 95% of all life on Earth, in a cataclysm known as "The Great Dying", the third and most severe mass extinction.
Geologically, the Paleozoic started shortly after the breakup of the supercontinent Pannotia. Throughout the early Paleozoic, that landmass was broken into a substantial number of continents. Towards the end of the era, the continents gathered together into a supercontinent called Pangaea, which included most of the Earth's land area.
The early Cambrian climate was probably moderate at first, becoming warmer over the course of the Cambrian, as the second-greatest sustained sea level rise in the Phanerozoic got underway. However, as if to offset this trend, Gondwana moved south, so that, in Ordovician time, most of West Gondwana (Africa and South America) lay directly over the South Pole. The early Paleozoic climate was also strongly zonal, with the result that the "climate", in an abstract sense, became warmer, but the living space of most organisms of the time—the continental shelf marine environment—became steadily colder. However, Baltica (Northern Europe and Russia) and Laurentia (eastern North America and Greenland) remained in the tropical zone, while China and Australia lay in waters which were at least temperate. The early Paleozoic ended, rather abruptly, with the short, but apparently severe, late Ordovician ice age. This cold spell caused the second-greatest mass extinction of Phanerozoic time. Over time, the warmer weather moved into the Paleozoic Era.
The Ordovician and Silurian were warm greenhouse periods, with the highest sea levels of the Paleozoic (200 m above today's); the warm climate was interrupted only by a cool period, the Early Palaeozoic Icehouse, culminating in the Hirnantian glaciation, at the end of the Ordovician.
The middle Paleozoic was a time of considerable stability. Sea levels had dropped coincident with the ice age, but slowly recovered over the course of the Silurian and Devonian. The slow merger of Baltica and Laurentia, and the northward movement of bits and pieces of Gondwana created numerous new regions of relatively warm, shallow sea floor. As plants took hold on the continental margins, oxygen levels increased and carbon dioxide dropped, although much less dramatically. The north–south temperature gradient also seems to have moderated, or metazoan life simply became hardier, or both. At any event, the far southern continental margins of Antarctica and West Gondwana became increasingly less barren. The Devonian ended with a series of turnover pulses which killed off much of middle Paleozoic vertebrate life, without noticeably reducing species diversity overall.
There are many unanswered questions about the late Paleozoic. The Mississippian (early Carboniferous Period) began with a spike in atmospheric oxygen, while carbon dioxide plummeted to new lows. This destabilized the climate and led to one, and perhaps two, ice ages during the Carboniferous. These were far more severe than the brief Late Ordovician ice age; but, this time, the effects on world biota were inconsequential. By the Cisuralian Epoch, both oxygen and carbon dioxide had recovered to more normal levels. On the other hand, the assembly of Pangaea created huge arid inland areas subject to temperature extremes. The Lopingian Epoch is associated with falling sea levels, increased carbon dioxide and general climatic deterioration, culminating in the devastation of the Permian extinction.
While macroscopic plant life appeared early in the Paleozoic Era and possibly late in the Neoproterozoic Era of the earlier eon, plants mostly remained aquatic until the Silurian Period, about 420 million years ago, when they began to transition onto dry land. Terrestrial flora reached its climax in the Carboniferous, when towering lycopsid rainforests dominated the tropical belt of Euramerica. Climate change caused the Carboniferous Rainforest Collapse which fragmented this habitat, diminishing the diversity of plant life in the late Carboniferous and Permian.
A noteworthy feature of Paleozoic life is the sudden appearance of nearly all of the invertebrate animal phyla in great abundance at the beginning of the Cambrian. The first vertebrates appeared in the form of primitive fish, which greatly diversified in the Silurian and Devonian Periods. The first animals to venture onto dry land were the arthropods. Some fish had lungs, and powerful bony fins that in the late Devonian, 367.5 million years ago, allowed them to crawl onto land. The bones in their fins eventually evolved into legs and they became the first tetrapods, , and began to develop lungs. Amphibians were the dominant tetrapods until the mid-Carboniferous, when climate change greatly reduced their diversity. Later, reptiles prospered and continued to increase in number and variety by the late Permian.
The Auchenorrhyncha (former synonym: Cicadinea) suborder of the Hemiptera contains most of the familiar members of what was called the Homoptera – groups such as cicadas, leafhoppers, treehoppers, planthoppers, and spittlebugs. The aphids and scale insects are the other well-known "Homoptera", and they are in the suborder Sternorrhyncha. Lesser-known insects largely regarded as Homoptera are the Coleorrhyncha. However, the taxonomic status of the Hemiptera and Homoptera is currently under investigation and discussion. See Heteroptera and Prosorrhyncha for more information.
Distributed worldwide, all members of this group are plant-feeders, and many are vectors of viral and fungal diseases of plants.
It is also common for Auchenorrhyncha species to produce either audible sounds or substrate vibrations as a form of communication. Such calls range from vibrations inaudible to humans, to the calls of many species of cicadas that can be heard for hundreds of metres, at least. In season, they produce the most characteristic and ubiquitous noise of the bush.Avalonia
Avalonia was a microcontinent in the Paleozoic era. Crustal fragments of this former microcontinent underlie south-west Great Britain, southern Ireland, and the eastern coast of North America. It is the source of many of the older rocks of Western Europe, Atlantic Canada, and parts of the coastal United States. Avalonia is named for the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland.
Avalonia developed as a volcanic arc on the northern margin of Gondwana. It eventually rifted off, becoming a drifting microcontinent. The Rheic Ocean formed behind it, and the Iapetus Ocean shrank in front. It collided with the continents Baltica, then Laurentia, and finally with Gondwana, ending up in the interior of Pangea. When Pangea broke up, Avalonia's remains were divided by the rift which became the Atlantic Ocean.Chonetes
Chonetes is an extinct genus of brachiopods. It ranged from the Late Ordovician to the Middle Jurassic.Devonian
The Devonian is a geologic period and system of the Paleozoic, spanning 60 million years from the end of the Silurian, 419.2 million years ago (Mya), to the beginning of the Carboniferous, 358.9 Mya. It is named after Devon, England, where rocks from this period were first studied.
The first significant adaptive radiation of life on dry land occurred during the Devonian. Free-sporing vascular plants began to spread across dry land, forming extensive forests which covered the continents. By the middle of the Devonian, several groups of plants had evolved leaves and true roots, and by the end of the period the first seed-bearing plants appeared. Various terrestrial arthropods also became well-established.
Fish reached substantial diversity during this time, leading the Devonian to often be dubbed the "Age of Fishes." The first ray-finned and lobe-finned bony fish appeared, while the placoderms began dominating almost every known aquatic environment. The ancestors of all four-limbed vertebrates (tetrapods) began adapting to walking on land, as their strong pectoral and pelvic fins gradually evolved into legs. In the oceans, primitive sharks became more numerous than in the Silurian and Late Ordovician.
The first ammonites, species of molluscs, appeared. Trilobites, the mollusc-like brachiopods and the great coral reefs, were still common. The Late Devonian extinction which started about 375 million years ago severely affected marine life, killing off all placodermi, and all trilobites, save for a few species of the order Proetida.
The palaeogeography was dominated by the supercontinent of Gondwana to the south, the continent of Siberia to the north, and the early formation of the small continent of Euramerica in between.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.Euramerica
Euramerica (also known as Laurussia – not to be confused with Laurasia, – the Old Red Continent or the Old Red Sandstone Continent) was a minor supercontinent created in the Devonian as the result of a collision between the Laurentian, Baltica, and Avalonia cratons during the Caledonian orogeny, about 410 million years ago. In the Late Carboniferous, tropical rainforests lay over the equator of Euramerica. A major, abrupt change in vegetation occurred when the climate aridified. The forest fragmented and the lycopsids which dominated these wetlands thinned out, being replaced by opportunistic ferns. There was also a great loss of amphibian diversity and simultaneously the drier climate spurred the diversification of reptiles.Favosites
Favosites is an extinct genus of tabulate coral characterized by polygonal closely packed corallites (giving it the common name "honeycomb coral"). The walls between corallites are pierced by pores known as mural pores which allowed transfer of nutrients between polyps. The growth pattern of Genus Halysites resembles a chain. Favosites, like all coral, thrived in warm sunlit seas, forming colourful reefs, feeding by filtering microscopic plankton with their stinging tentacles. The genus had a worldwide distribution from the Late Ordovician to Late Permian.Gondwana
Gondwana ( ), (or Gondwanaland), was a supercontinent that existed from the Neoproterozoic (about 550 million years ago) until the Jurassic (about 180 million years ago).
It was formed by the accretion of several cratons. Eventually, Gondwana became the largest piece of continental crust of the Paleozoic Era, covering an area of about 100,000,000 km2 (39,000,000 sq mi). During the Carboniferous Period, it merged with Laurussia to form a larger supercontinent called Pangaea. Gondwana (and Pangaea) gradually broke up during the Mesozoic Era. The remnants of Gondwana make up about two thirds of today's continental area, including South America, Africa, Antarctica, Australia, Indian Subcontinent and Arabia.
The formation of Gondwana began c. 800 to 650 Ma with the East African Orogeny, the collision of India and Madagascar with East Africa,and was completed c. 600 to 530 Ma with the overlapping Brasiliano and Kuunga orogenies, the collision of South America with Africa and the addition of Australia and Antarctica, respectively.Hyolitha
Hyoliths are animals with small conical shells, known as fossils from the Palaeozoic Era. They are lophophorates, a group which includes the brachiopods.Iapetus Ocean
The Iapetus Ocean was an ocean that existed in the late Neoproterozoic and early Paleozoic eras of the geologic timescale (between 600 and 400 million years ago). The Iapetus Ocean was situated in the southern hemisphere, between the paleocontinents of Laurentia, Baltica and Avalonia. The ocean disappeared with the Acadian, Caledonian and Taconic orogenies, when these three continents joined to form one big landmass called Euramerica. The "southern" Iapetus Ocean has been proposed to have closed with the Famatinian and Taconic orogenies, meaning a collision between Western Gondwana and Laurentia.
Because the Iapetus Ocean was positioned between continental masses that would at a much later time roughly form the opposite shores of the Atlantic Ocean, it can be seen as a sort of precursor of the Atlantic. The Iapetus Ocean was therefore named for the titan Iapetus, who in Greek mythology was the father of Atlas, after whom the Atlantic Ocean was named.Late Paleozoic icehouse
The late Paleozoic icehouse, formerly known as the Karoo ice age, was the climate state 360–260 million years ago (Mya) in which large land-based ice-sheets were present on Earth's surface. It was the second major glacial period of the Phanerozoic. It is named after the tillite (Dwyka Group) found in the Karoo Basin of South Africa, where evidence for this ice age was first clearly identified in the 19th century.
The tectonic assembly of the continents of Euramerica (later with the Uralian orogeny, into Laurasia) and Gondwana into Pangaea, in the Hercynian-Alleghany Orogeny, made a major continental land mass within the Antarctic region, and the closure of the Rheic Ocean and Iapetus Ocean saw disruption of warm-water currents in the Panthalassa Ocean and Paleotethys Sea, which led to progressive cooling of summers, and the snowfields accumulating in winters, causing mountainous alpine glaciers to grow, and then spread out of highland areas, making continental glaciers which spread to cover much of Gondwana.
At least two major periods of glaciation have been discovered:
The first glacial period was associated with the Mississippian subperiod (359.2–318.1 Mya): ice sheets expanded from a core in southern Africa and South America.
The second glacial period was associated with the Pennsylvanian subperiod (318.1–299 Mya); ice sheets expanded from a core in Australia and India.Lepidodendron
Lepidodendron — also known as the scale trees — is an extinct genus of primitive, vascular, tree-like plants related to the lycopsids (club mosses). They were part of the coal forest flora. They sometimes reached heights of over 30 metres (100 ft), and the trunks were often over 1 m (3.3 ft) in diameter. They thrived during the Carboniferous Period (about 359.2 ± 2.5 Mya (million years ago) and were found until the Late Triassic, about 205 Ma) before going extinct. Sometimes erroneously called "giant club mosses", the genus was actually more closely related to modern quillworts than to modern club mosses.
The name Lepidodendron comes from the Greek λεπίς lepis, scale, and δένδρον dendron, tree.Lopingian
The Lopingian is the uppermost series/last epoch of the Permian. It is the last epoch of the Paleozoic. The Lopingian was preceded by the Guadalupian and followed by the Early Triassic.
The name was introduced by Amadeus William Grabau in 1931 and derives from Leping, Jiangxi in the then Republic of China. It consists of two stages/ages. The earlier is the Wuchiapingian and the later is the Changhsingian.The International Chronostratigraphic Chart (v2018/07) provides a numerical age of 259.1 ±0.5 Ma. If a Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP) has been approved, the lower boundary of the earliest stage determines numerical age of an epoch. The GSSP for the Wuchiapingian has a numerical age of 259.8 ± 0.4 Ma.The Lopingian ended with the Permian–Triassic extinction event.Ordovician
The Ordovician ( ) is a geologic period and system, the second of six periods of the Paleozoic Era. The Ordovician spans 41.2 million years from the end of the Cambrian Period 485.4 million years ago (Mya) to the start of the Silurian Period 443.8 Mya.The Ordovician, named after the Celtic tribe of the Ordovices, was defined by Charles Lapworth in 1879 to resolve a dispute between followers of Adam Sedgwick and Roderick Murchison, who were placing the same rock beds in northern Wales into the Cambrian and Silurian systems, respectively. Lapworth recognized that the fossil fauna in the disputed strata were different from those of either the Cambrian or the Silurian systems, and placed them in a system of their own. The Ordovician received international approval in 1960 (forty years after Lapworth's death), when it was adopted as an official period of the Paleozoic Era by the International Geological Congress.
Life continued to flourish during the Ordovician as it did in the earlier Cambrian period, although the end of the period was marked by the Ordovician–Silurian extinction events. Invertebrates, namely molluscs and arthropods, dominated the oceans. The Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event considerably increased the diversity of life. Fish, the world's first true vertebrates, continued to evolve, and those with jaws may have first appeared late in the period. Life had yet to diversify on land. About 100 times as many meteorites struck the Earth per year during the Ordovician compared with today.Permian
The Permian is a geologic period and system which spans 47 million years from the end of the Carboniferous Period 298.9 million years ago (Mya), to the beginning of the Triassic period 251.902 Mya. It is the last period of the Paleozoic era; the following Triassic period belongs to the Mesozoic era. The concept of the Permian was introduced in 1841 by geologist Sir Roderick Murchison, who named it after the city of Perm.
The Permian witnessed the diversification of the early amniotes into the ancestral groups of the mammals, turtles, lepidosaurs, and archosaurs. The world at the time was dominated by two continents known as Pangaea and Siberia, surrounded by a global ocean called Panthalassa. The Carboniferous rainforest collapse left behind vast regions of desert within the continental interior. Amniotes, which could better cope with these drier conditions, rose to dominance in place of their amphibian ancestors.
The Permian (along with the Paleozoic) ended with the Permian–Triassic extinction event, the largest mass extinction in Earth's history, in which nearly 96% of marine species and 70% of terrestrial species died out. It would take well into the Triassic for life to recover from this catastrophe. Recovery from the Permian–Triassic extinction event was protracted; on land, ecosystems took 30 million years to recover.Siberia (continent)
Siberia, also known as Angaraland (or simply Angara) and Angarida, is an ancient craton located in the heart of Siberia. Today forming the Central Siberian Plateau, it formed an independent continent before the Permian period.
Angaraland was named in the 1880s by Austrian geologist Eduard Suess who erroneously believed that in the Paleozoic there were two large continents in the Northern Hemisphere: "Atlantis", North America connected to Europe by a peninsula (=Greenland and Iceland); and "Angara-land", eastern Asia, named after the Angara River in Siberia.Silurian
The Silurian is a geologic period and system spanning 24.6 million years from the end of the Ordovician Period, at 443.8 million years ago (Mya), to the beginning of the Devonian Period, 419.2 Mya. The Silurian is the shortest period of the Paleozoic Era. As with other geologic periods, the rock beds that define the period's start and end are well identified, but the exact dates are uncertain by several million years. The base of the Silurian is set at a series of major Ordovician–Silurian extinction events when up to 60% of marine genera were wiped out.
A significant evolutionary milestone during the Silurian was the diversification of jawed fish and bony fish. Multi-cellular life also began to appear on land in the form of small, bryophyte-like and vascular plants that grew beside lakes, streams, and coastlines, and terrestrial arthropods are also first found on land during the Silurian. However, terrestrial life would not greatly diversify and affect the landscape until the Devonian.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.Spirifer
Spirifer is a genus of marine brachiopods belonging to the order Spiriferida and family Spiriferidae. Species belonging to the genus lived from the Middle Ordovician (Sandbian) through to the Middle Triassic (Carnian) with a global distribution. They were stationary epifaunal suspension feeders.
|Paleozoic era(251.902–541.0 Mya)|
(541.0 Mya–2.5 Gya)
|Archean eon (2.5–4 Gya)|
|Hadean eon (4–4.6 Gya)|