Quaternary ( /kwəˈtɜːrnəri/) 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.
2.58–0 million years ago
|Mean atmospheric O
2 content over period duration
|c. 20.8 vol %|
(104 % of modern level)
|Mean atmospheric CO
2 content over period duration
|c. 250 ppm|
(1 times pre-industrial level)
|Mean surface temperature over period duration||c. 14 °C|
(0 °C above modern level)
In 1759 Giovanni Arduino proposed that the geological strata of northern Italy could be divided into four successive formations or "orders" (Italian: quattro ordini). The term "quaternary" was introduced by Jules Desnoyers in 1829 for sediments of France's Seine Basin that seemed clearly to be younger than Tertiary Period rocks.
The Quaternary Period follows the Neogene Period and extends to the present. The Quaternary covers the time span of glaciations classified as the Pleistocene, and includes the present interglacial time-period, the Holocene.
This places the start of the Quaternary at the onset of Northern Hemisphere glaciation approximately 2.6 million years ago. Prior to 2009, the Pleistocene was defined to be from 1.805 million years ago to the present, so the current definition of the Pleistocene includes a portion of what was, prior to 2009, defined as the Pliocene.
|Subdivisions of the Quaternary System|
Quaternary stratigraphers usually worked with regional subdivisions. From the 1970s, the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) tried to make a single geologic time scale based on GSSP's, which could be used internationally. The Quaternary subdivisions were defined based on biostratigraphy instead of paleoclimate.
This led to the problem that the proposed base of the Pleistocene was at 1.805 Mya, long after the start of the major glaciations of the northern hemisphere. The ICS then proposed to abolish use of the name Quaternary altogether, which appeared unacceptable to the International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA).
In 2009, it was decided to make the Quaternary the youngest period of the Cenozoic Era with its base at 2.588 Mya and including the Gelasian stage, which was formerly considered part of the Neogene Period and Pliocene Epoch.
The Anthropocene has been proposed as a third epoch as a mark of the anthropogenic impact on the global environment starting with the Industrial Revolution, or about 200 years ago. The Anthropocene is not officially designated by the ICS, but a working group has been working on a proposal for the creation of an epoch or sub-period.
The 2.6 million years of the Quaternary represents the time during which recognizable humans existed. Over this geologically short time period, there has been relatively little change in the distribution of the continents due to plate tectonics.
The Quaternary geological record is preserved in greater detail than that for earlier periods.
The major geographical changes during this time period included the emergence of the Strait of Bosphorus and Skagerrak during glacial epochs, which respectively turned the Black Sea and Baltic Sea into fresh water, followed by their flooding (and return to salt water) by rising sea level; the periodic filling of the English Channel, forming a land bridge between Britain and the European mainland; the periodic closing of the Bering Strait, forming the land bridge between Asia and North America; and the periodic flash flooding of Scablands of the American Northwest by glacial water.
The current extent of Hudson Bay, the Great Lakes and other major lakes of North America are a consequence of the Canadian Shield's readjustment since the last ice age; different shorelines have existed over the course of Quaternary time.
The climate was one of periodic glaciations with continental glaciers moving as far from the poles as 40 degrees latitude. There was a major extinction of large mammals in Northern areas at the end of the Pleistocene Epoch. Many forms such as saber-toothed cats, mammoths, mastodons, glyptodonts, etc., became extinct worldwide. Others, including horses, camels and American cheetahs became extinct in North America.
Glaciation took place repeatedly during the Quaternary Ice Age – a term coined by Schimper in 1839 that began with the start of the Quaternary about 2.58 Mya and continues to the present day.
In 1821, a Swiss engineer, Ignaz Venetz, presented an article in which he suggested the presence of traces of the passage of a glacier at a considerable distance from the Alps. This idea was initially disputed by another Swiss scientist, Louis Agassiz, but when he undertook to disprove it, he ended up affirming his colleague's hypothesis. A year later, Agassiz raised the hypothesis of a great glacial period that would have had long-reaching general effects. This idea gained him international fame and led to the establishment of the Glacial Theory.
In time, thanks to the refinement of geology, it has been demonstrated that there were several periods of glacial advance and retreat and that past temperatures on Earth were very different from today. In particular, the Milankovitch cycles of Milutin Milankovitch are based on the premise that variations in incoming solar radiation are a fundamental factor controlling Earth's climate.
During this time, substantial glaciers advanced and retreated over much of North America and Europe, parts of South America and Asia, and all of Antarctica. The Great Lakes formed and giant mammals thrived in parts of North America and Eurasia not covered in ice. These mammals became extinct when the glacial period Age ended about 11,700 years ago. Modern humans evolved about 315,000 years ago. During the Quaternary Period, mammals, flowering plants, and insects dominated the land.
Biomolecular structure is the intricate folded, three-dimensional shape that is formed by a molecule of protein, DNA, or RNA, and that is important to its function. The structure of these molecules may be considered at any of several length scales ranging from the level of individual atoms to the relationships among entire protein subunits. This useful distinction among scales is often expressed as a decomposition of molecular structure into four levels: primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary. The scaffold for this multiscale organization of the molecule arises at the secondary level, where the fundamental structural elements are the molecule's various hydrogen bonds. This leads to several recognizable domains of protein structure and nucleic acid structure, including such secondary-structure features as alpha helixes and beta sheets for proteins, and hairpin loops, bulges, and internal loops for nucleic acids.
The terms primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary structure were introduced by Kaj Ulrik Linderstrøm-Lang in his 1951 Lane Medical Lectures at Stanford University.Glacial period
A glacial period (alternatively glacial or glaciation) is an interval of time (thousands of years) within an ice age that is marked by colder temperatures and glacier advances. Interglacials, on the other hand, are periods of warmer climate between glacial periods. The last glacial period ended about 15,000 years ago. The Holocene epoch is the current interglacial. A time with no glaciers on Earth is considered a greenhouse climate state.Health care
Health care or healthcare is the maintenance or improvement of health via the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, illness, injury, and other physical and mental impairments in people. Health care is delivered by health professionals (providers or practitioners) in allied health fields. Physicians and physician associates are a part of these health professionals. Dentistry, midwifery, nursing, medicine, optometry, audiology, pharmacy, psychology, occupational therapy, physical therapy and other health professions are all part of health care. It includes work done in providing primary care, secondary care, and tertiary care, as well as in public health.
Access to health care may vary across countries, communities, and individuals, largely influenced by social and economic conditions as well as health policies. Health care systems are organizations established to meet the health needs of targeted populations. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a well-functioning health care system requires a financing mechanism, a well-trained and adequately paid workforce, reliable information on which to base decisions and policies, and well maintained health facilities to deliver quality medicines and technologies.An efficient health care system can contribute to a significant part of a country's economy, development and industrialization. Health care is conventionally regarded as an important determinant in promoting the general physical and mental health and well-being of people around the world. An example of this was the worldwide eradication of smallpox in 1980, declared by the WHO as the first disease in human history to be completely eliminated by deliberate health care interventions.Holocene
The Holocene ( ) is the current geological epoch. It began approximately 11,650 cal years before present, after the last glacial period, which concluded with the Holocene glacial retreat. The Holocene and the preceding Pleistocene together form the Quaternary period. The Holocene has been identified with the current warm period, known as MIS 1. It is considered by some to be an interglacial period within the Pleistocene Epoch.The Holocene has seen the growth and impacts of the human species worldwide, including all its written history, development of major civilizations, and overall significant transition toward urban living in the present. Human impacts on modern-era Earth and its ecosystems may be considered of global significance for future evolution of living species, including approximately synchronous lithospheric evidence, or more recently hydrospheric and atmospheric evidence of human impacts. In July 2018, the International Union of Geological Sciences split the Holocene epoch into three distinct subsections, Greenlandian (11,700 years ago to 8,326 years ago), Northgrippian (8,326 years ago to 4,200 years ago) and Meghalayan (4,200 years ago to the present), as proposed by International Commission on Stratigraphy. The boundary stratotype of Meghalayan is a speleothem in Mawmluh cave in India, and the global auxiliary stratotype is an ice core from Mount Logan in Canada.The name Holocene comes from the Ancient Greek words ὅλος (holos, whole or entire) and καινός (kainos, new), meaning "entirely recent".Ice age
An ice age is a long period of reduction in the temperature of the Earth's surface and atmosphere, resulting in the presence or expansion of continental and polar ice sheets and alpine glaciers. Earth is currently in the Quaternary glaciation, known in popular terminology as the Ice Age. Individual pulses of cold climate are termed "glacial periods" (or, alternatively, "glacials", "glaciations", or "glacial stages", or colloquially, "ice ages"), and intermittent warm periods are called "interglacials", with both climatic pulses part of the Quaternary or other periods in Earth's history.In the terminology of glaciology, ice age implies the presence of extensive ice sheets in both northern and southern hemispheres. By this definition, we are in an interglacial period—the Holocene. The amount of heat trapping gases emitted into Earth's Oceans and atmosphere will prevent the next ice age, which otherwise would begin in around 50,000 years, and likely more glacial cycles.Last Glacial Period
The Last Glacial Period (LGP) occurred from the end of the Eemian interglacial to the end of the Younger Dryas, encompassing the period c. 115,000 – c. 11,700 years ago. This most recent glacial period is part of a larger pattern of glacial and interglacial periods known as the Quaternary glaciation extending from c. 2,588,000 years ago to present. The definition of the Quaternary as beginning 2.58 Ma is based on the formation of the Arctic ice cap. The Antarctic ice sheet began to form earlier, at about 34 Ma, in the mid-Cenozoic (Eocene–Oligocene extinction event). The term Late Cenozoic Ice Age is used to include this early phase.During this last glacial period there were alternating episodes of glacier advance and retreat. Within the last glacial period the Last Glacial Maximum was approximately 22,000 years ago. While the general pattern of global cooling and glacier advance was similar, local differences in the development of glacier advance and retreat make it difficult to compare the details from continent to continent (see picture of ice core data below for differences). Approximately 13,000 years ago, the Late Glacial Maximum began. The end of the Younger Dryas about 11,700 years ago marked the beginning of the Holocene geological epoch, which includes the Holocene glacial retreat.
From the point of view of human archaeology, the last glacial period falls in the Paleolithic and early Mesolithic periods. When the glaciation event started, Homo sapiens were confined to lower latitudes and used tools comparable to those used by Neanderthals in western and central Eurasia and by Homo erectus in Asia. Near the end of the event, Homo sapiens migrated into Eurasia and Australia. Archaeological and genetic data suggest that the source populations of Paleolithic humans survived the last glacial period in sparsely wooded areas and dispersed through areas of high primary productivity while avoiding dense forest cover.Late Pleistocene
The Late Pleistocene is a geochronological age of the Pleistocene Epoch and is associated with Upper Pleistocene (or Tarantian) stage rocks. The beginning of the stage is defined by the base of the Eemian interglacial phase before the final glacial episode of the Pleistocene 126,000 ± 5,000 years ago. Its end is defined at the end of the Younger Dryas, some 11,700 years ago. The age represents the end of the Pleistocene epoch and is followed by the Holocene epoch.
Much of the Late Pleistocene age was dominated by glaciations, such as the Wisconsin glaciation in North America and the Weichselian glaciation and Würm glaciation in Eurasia). Many megafauna became extinct during this age, a trend that continued into the Holocene. The Late Pleistocene contains the Upper Paleolithic stage of human development, including the out-of-Africa migration and dispersal of anatomically modern humans and the extinction of the last remaining archaic human species.List of Late Quaternary prehistoric bird species
Late Quaternary prehistoric birds are avian taxa that became extinct during the Late Quaternary – the Holocene or Late Pleistocene – and before recorded history, or more precisely, before they could be studied alive by ornithological science. They became extinct before the period of global scientific exploration that started in the late 15th century. In other words, this list basically deals with extinctions between 40,000 BC and 1500 AD. For the purposes of this article, a "bird" is any member of the clade Neornithes, that is, any descendant of the most recent common ancestor of all currently living birds.
The birds are known from their remains, which are subfossil (not fossilized, or not completely fossilized). Some are also known from folk memory, as in the case of Haast's eagle in New Zealand. As the remains are not completely fossilized, they may yield organic material for molecular analyses to provide additional clues for resolving their taxonomic affiliations.
The extinction of the taxa in this list was coincident with the expansion of Homo sapiens beyond Africa and Eurasia, and in most cases, anthropogenic factors have played a crucial part in their extinction, be it through hunting, introduced predators or habitat alteration. It is notable that a large proportion of the species are from oceanic islands, especially in Polynesia. Bird taxa that evolved on oceanic islands are usually very vulnerable to hunting or predation by rats, cats, dogs or pigs – animals commonly introduced by humans – as they evolved in the absence of mammalian predators, and therefore have only rudimentary predator avoidance behavior. Many, especially rails, have additionally become flightless for the same reason and thus presented even easier prey.
Taxon extinctions taking place before the Late Quaternary happened in the absence of significant human interference. Rather, reasons for extinction are stochastic abiotic events such as bolide impacts, climate changes, mass volcanic eruptions etc. Alternatively, species may have gone extinct due to evolutionary displacement by successor or competitor taxa – it is notable for example that in the early Neogene, seabird biodiversity was much higher than today; this is probably due to competition by the radiation of marine mammals after that time. The relationships of these ancient birds are often hard to determine, as many are known only from very fragmentary remains and complete fossilization precludes analysis of information from DNA, RNA or protein sequencing.
The taxa in this list should be classified with the Wikipedia conservation status category "Prehistoric" in their individual accounts.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.Pleistocene
The Pleistocene ( , often colloquially referred to as the Ice Age) is the geological epoch which lasted from about 2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago, spanning the world's most recent period of repeated glaciations. The end of the Pleistocene corresponds with the end of the last glacial period and also with the end of the Paleolithic age used in archaeology.
The Pleistocene is the first epoch of the Quaternary Period or sixth epoch of the Cenozoic Era. In the ICS timescale, the Pleistocene is divided into four stages or ages, the Gelasian, Calabrian, Middle Pleistocene (unofficially the 'Chibanian') and Upper Pleistocene (unofficially the 'Tarantian'). In addition to this international subdivision, various regional subdivisions are often used.
Before a change finally confirmed in 2009 by the International Union of Geological Sciences, the time boundary between the Pleistocene and the preceding Pliocene was regarded as being at 1.806 million years Before Present (BP), as opposed to the currently accepted 2.588 million years BP: publications from the preceding years may use either definition of the period.Postgraduate education
Postgraduate education, or graduate education in North America, involves learning and studying for academic or professional degrees, academic or professional certificates, academic or professional diplomas, or other qualifications for which a first or bachelor's degree generally is required, and it is normally considered to be part of higher education. In North America, this level is typically referred to as graduate school (or sometimes colloquially as grad school).
The organization and structure of postgraduate education varies in different countries, as well as in different institutions within countries. This article outlines the basic types of courses and of teaching and examination methods, with some explanation of their history.Quaternary ammonium cation
Quaternary ammonium cations, also known as quats, are positively charged polyatomic ions of the structure NR+4, R being an alkyl group or an aryl group. Unlike the ammonium ion (NH+4) and the primary, secondary, or tertiary ammonium cations, the quaternary ammonium cations are permanently charged, independent of the pH of their solution. Quaternary ammonium salts or quaternary ammonium compounds (called quaternary amines in oilfield parlance) are salts of quaternary ammonium cations.Quaternary glaciation
The Quaternary glaciation, also known as the Pleistocene glaciation, is an alternating series of glacial and interglacial periods during the Quaternary period that began 2.58 Ma (million years ago), and is ongoing. Although geologists describe the entire time period as an "ice age", in popular culture the term "ice age" is usually associated with just the most recent glacial period. Since earth still has ice sheets, geologists consider the Quaternary glaciation to be ongoing, with earth now experiencing an interglacial period.
During the Quaternary glaciation, ice sheets appeared. During glacial periods they expanded, and during interglacial periods they contracted. Since the end of the last glacial period the only surviving ice sheets are the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. Other ice sheets, such as the Laurentide ice sheet, formed during glacial periods and completely disappeared during interglacials. The major effects of the Quatenary glaciation have been the erosion of land and the deposition of material, both over large parts of the continents; the modification of river systems; the creation of millions of lakes, including the development of pluvial lakes far from the ice margins; changes in sea level; the isostatic adjustment of the Earth's crust; flooding; and abnormal winds. The ice sheets themselves, by raising the albedo (the extent to which the radiant energy of the Sun is reflected from Earth) created significant feedback to further cool the climate. These effects have been reshaping entire environments on land and in the oceans, and their associated biological communities.
Before the quaternary glaciation, land-based ice appeared, and then disappeared, at least four other times.Quaternary numeral system
Quaternary is the base-4 numeral system. It uses the digits 0, 1, 2 and 3 to represent any real number.
Four is the largest number within the subitizing range and one of two numbers that is both a square and a highly composite number (the other being 36), making quaternary a convenient choice for a base at this scale. Despite being twice as large, its radix economy is equal to that of binary. However, it fares no better in the localization of prime numbers (the next best being the primorial base six, senary).
Quaternary shares with all fixed-radix numeral systems many properties, such as the ability to represent any real number with a canonical representation (almost unique) and the characteristics of the representations of rational numbers and irrational numbers. See decimal and binary for a discussion of these properties.Quaternary science
Quaternary science is an inter-disciplinary field of study focusing on the Quaternary period, which encompasses the last 2.6 million years. The field studies the current ice age and the recent interstadial, between numerous glaciations, the Holocene, and uses proxy evidence to reconstruct the past environments during this period to infer the climatic and environmental changes that have occurred.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.Tertiary color
A tertiary color or intermediate color is a color made by mixing full saturation of one primary color with half saturation of another primary color and none of a third primary color, in a color space such as RGB, CMYK (more modern) or RYB (traditional).
Tertiary colors have general names, one set of names for the RGB color wheel and a different set for the RYB color wheel. These names are shown below.
Another definition of tertiary color is provided by color theorists such as Moses Harrisand Josef Albers, who suggest that tertiary colors are created by intermixing pairs of secondary colors: orange-green, green-purple, purple-orange; or by intermixing complementary colors. This approach to tertiary color relates specifically to color in the form of paints, pigments and dyes.Timeline of glaciation
There have been five or six major ice ages in the history of Earth over the past 3 billion years.
The Late Cenozoic Ice Age began 34 million years ago, its latest phase being the Quaternary glaciation, in progress since 2.58 million years ago.
Within ice ages, there exist periods of more severe glacial conditions and more temperate referred to as glacial periods and interglacial periods, respectively. The Earth is currently in such an interglacial period of the Quaternary glaciation, with the last glacial period of the Quaternary having ended approximately 11,700 years ago, the current interglacial being known as the Holocene epoch.
Based on climate proxies, paleoclimatologists study the different climate states originating from glaciation.Wisconsin glaciation
The Wisconsin Glacial Episode, also called the Wisconsinan glaciation, was the most recent glacial period of the North American ice sheet complex. This advance included the Cordilleran Ice Sheet, which nucleated in the northern North American Cordillera; the Innuitian ice sheet, which extended across the Canadian Arctic Archipelago; the Greenland ice sheet; and the massive Laurentide ice sheet, which covered the high latitudes of central and eastern North America. This advance was synchronous with global glaciation during the last glacial period, including the North American alpine glacier advance, known as the Pinedale glaciation. The Wisconsin glaciation extended from approximately 75,000 to 11,000 years ago, between the Sangamon interglacial (known globally as the Eemian stage) and the current interglacial, the Holocene. The maximum ice extent occurred approximately 25,000–21,000 years ago during the last glacial maximum, also known as the Late Wisconsin in North America.
This glaciation radically altered the geography north of the Ohio River. At the height of the Wisconsin Episode glaciation, the ice sheet covered most of Canada, the Upper Midwest, and New England, as well as parts of Idaho, Montana, and Washington. On Kelleys Island in Lake Erie or in New York City's Central Park, the grooves left in rock by these glaciers can be easily observed. In southwestern Saskatchewan and southeastern Alberta a suture zone between the Laurentide and Cordilleran ice sheets formed the Cypress Hills, North America's northernmost point that remained south of the continental ice sheets. During much of the glaciation, sea level was low enough to permit land animals, including humans, to occupy Beringia (the Bering Land Bridge) and move between North America and Siberia. As the glaciers retreated, glacial lakes were breached in great floods of water such as the Kankakee Torrent, which reshaped the landscape south of modern Chicago as far as the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.
(541.0 Mya–2.5 Gya)
|Archean eon (2.5–4 Gya)|
|Hadean eon (4–4.6 Gya)|