Last updated
Age (Ma)
Quaternary Pleistocene Gelasian younger
Neogene Pliocene Piacenzian 2.583.600
Zanclean 3.6005.333
Miocene Messinian 5.3337.246
Tortonian 7.24611.63
Serravallian 11.6313.82
Langhian 13.8215.97
Burdigalian 15.9720.44
Aquitanian 20.4423.03
Paleogene Oligocene Chattian older
Subdivision of the Neogene Period
according to the ICS, as of 2017. [1]

The Miocene ( /ˈməˌsn/ [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.

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

The Neogene 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).

The abbreviation myr, "million years", is a unit of a quantity of 1,000,000 (i.e. 1×106) years, or 31.536 teraseconds.


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.

Ice age Period of long-term reduction in temperature of Earths surface and atmosphere

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", and intermittent warm periods are called "interglacials", with both climatic pulses part of the Quaternary or other periods in Earth's history.

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 (7.5–5.3 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]

Ape superfamily of mammals

Apes (Hominoidea) are a branch of Old World tailless simians native to Africa and Southeast Asia. They are the sister group of the Old World monkeys, together forming the catarrhine clade. They are distinguished from other primates by a wider degree of freedom of motion at the shoulder joint as evolved by the influence of brachiation. In traditional and non-scientific use, the term "ape" excludes humans, and is thus not equivalent to the scientific taxon Hominoidea. There are two extant branches of the superfamily Hominoidea: the gibbons, or lesser apes; and the hominids, or great apes.

The Early Miocene is a sub-epoch of the Miocene Epoch made up of two stages: the Aquitanian and Burdigalian stages.

Old World Collectively Africa, Europe, and Asia

The term "Old World" is used commonly in the West to refer to Africa, Asia and Europe, regarded collectively as the part of the world known to its population before contact with the Americas and Oceania. It is used in the context of, and contrasts with, the New World.

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

Whale Marine mammals of the order Cetacea

Whales are a widely distributed and diverse group of fully aquatic placental marine mammals. They are an informal grouping within the infraorder Cetacea, usually excluding dolphins and porpoises. Whales, dolphins and porpoises belong to the order Cetartiodactyla with even-toed ungulates and their closest living relatives are the hippopotamuses, having diverged about 40 million years ago. The two parvorders of whales, baleen whales (Mysticeti) and toothed whales (Odontoceti), are thought to have split apart around 34 million years ago. The whales comprise eight extant families: Balaenopteridae, Balaenidae, Cetotheriidae, Eschrichtiidae, Monodontidae, Physeteridae, Kogiidae, and Ziphiidae.

Pinniped Infraorder of mammals

Pinnipeds, commonly known as seals, are a widely distributed and diverse clade of carnivorous, fin-footed, semiaquatic marine mammals. They comprise the extant families Odobenidae, Otariidae, and Phocidae. There are 33 extant species of pinnipeds, and more than 50 extinct species have been described from fossils. While seals were historically thought to have descended from two ancestral lines, molecular evidence supports them as a monophyletic lineage. Pinnipeds belong to the order Carnivora and their closest living relatives are believed to be bears and the superfamily of musteloids, having diverged about 50 million years ago.

Kelp Large brown seaweeds in the order Laminariales

Kelps are large brown algae seaweeds that make up the order Laminariales. There are about 30 different genera.

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]

Geology of the Himalaya The origins and structure of the mountain range

The geology of the Himalaya is a record of the most dramatic and visible creations of modern plate tectonic forces. The Himalayas, which stretch over 2400 km between the Namche Barwa syntaxis in Tibet and the Nanga Parbat syntaxis in India, are the result of an ongoing orogeny — the result of a collision of the continental crust of two tectonic plates. This immense mountain range was formed by tectonic forces and sculpted by weathering and erosion. The Himalaya-Tibet region supplies fresh water for more than one-fifth of the world population, and accounts for a quarter of the global sedimentary budget. Topographically, the belt has many superlatives: the highest rate of uplift, the highest relief, among the highest erosion rates at 2–12 mm/yr, the source of some of the greatest rivers and the highest concentration of glaciers outside of the polar regions. This last feature earned the Himalaya its name, originating from the Sanskrit for "the abode of the snow".

Monsoon seasonal changes in atmospheric circulation and precipitation associated with the asymmetric heating of land and sea

Monsoon is traditionally defined as a seasonal reversing wind accompanied by corresponding changes in precipitation, but is now used to describe seasonal changes in atmospheric circulation and precipitation associated with the asymmetric heating of land and sea. Usually, the term monsoon is used to refer to the rainy phase of a seasonally changing pattern, although technically there is also a dry phase. The term is sometimes incorrectly used for locally heavy but short-term rains, although these rains meet the dictionary definition of monsoon.

A glacial period is an interval of time 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.



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

The International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS), sometimes referred to by the unofficial name "International Stratigraphic Commission" is a daughter or major subcommittee grade scientific daughter organization that concerns itself with stratigraphy, geological, and geochronological matters on a global scale.

Sub-epochFaunal stageTime 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


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]


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,[ citation needed ] although the climate for the most part remained warm enough to support forests there well into the Pliocene.


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.


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

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 million years ago 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]


Cameloid footprint (Lamaichnum alfi Sarjeant and Reynolds, 1999; convex hyporelief) from the Barstow Formation (Miocene) of Rainbow Basin, California. CamelFootprintBarstowMiocene.jpg
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 fauna of North America, as restored by paleoartist Jay Matternes Miocene.jpg
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]

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


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

Related Research Articles

The Cenozoic Era meaning "new life", is the current and most recent of the three Phanerozoic geological eras, following the Mesozoic Era and extending from 66 million years ago to the present day.

The Eocene Epoch, lasting from 56 to 33.9 million years ago, is a major division of the geologic timescale and the second epoch of the Paleogene Period in the Cenozoic Era. The Eocene spans the time from the end of the Paleocene Epoch to the beginning of the Oligocene Epoch. The start of the Eocene is marked by a brief period in which the concentration of the carbon isotope 13C in the atmosphere was exceptionally low in comparison with the more common isotope 12C. The end is set at a major extinction event called the Grande Coupure or the Eocene–Oligocene extinction event, which may be related to the impact of one or more large bolides in Siberia and in what is now Chesapeake Bay. As with other geologic periods, the strata that define the start and end of the epoch are well identified, though their exact dates are slightly uncertain.

The Oligocene is a geologic epoch of the Paleogene Period and extends from about 33.9 million to 23 million years before the present. 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 and καινός, 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 Pliocene 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.

The Phanerozoic Eon is the current geologic eon in the geologic time scale, and the one during which abundant animal and plant life has existed. It covers 541 million years to the present, and began with the Cambrian Period when animals first developed hard shells preserved in the fossil record. Its name was derived from the Ancient Greek words φανερός and ζωή, meaning visible life, since it was once believed that life began in the Cambrian, the first period of this eon. The term "Phanerozoic" was coined in 1930 by the American geologist George Halcott Chadwick (1876–1953). The time before the Phanerozoic, called the Precambrian, is now divided into the Hadean, Archaean and Proterozoic eons.

An inland sea is a shallow sea that covers central areas of continents during periods of high sea level that result in marine transgressions. In modern times, continents stand high, eustatic sea levels are low, and there are few inland seas, the largest being Hudson Bay. Modern examples might also include the recently reflooded Persian Gulf, and the South China Sea that presently covers the Sunda Shelf.

<i>Potamotherium</i> species of mammal

Potamotherium an extinct genus of caniform carnivoran from the Miocene epoch of France and Germany. It has been previously assigned to the mustelid family, but recent work suggests that is represents a primitive relative of pinnipeds.

<i>Hemicyon</i> genus of mammals

Hemicyon, the so-called "dog-bear", is an extinct genus of hemicyonine bear, which probably originated in Eurasia but was found in Europe, Asia and North America during the Miocene epoch, existing for approximately 16 to 13 mya.

Merycoidodontoidea family of mammals (fossil)

Merycoidodontoidea, sometimes called "oreodonts," or "ruminating hogs", is an extinct superfamily of prehistoric cud-chewing artiodactyls with short faces and fang-like canine teeth. As their name implies, some of the better known forms were generally hog-like, and the group has traditionally been placed within the Suina, though some recent work suggests they may have been more closely related to camels. "Oreodont" means "mountain teeth", referring to the appearance of the molars. Most oreodonts were sheep-sized, though some genera grew to the size of cattle. They were heavy-bodied, with short four-toed hooves and comparatively long tails.

Geological history of Earth The sequence of major geological events in Earths past

The geological history of Earth follows the major events in Earth's past based on the geological time scale, a system of chronological measurement based on the study of the planet's rock layers (stratigraphy). Earth formed about 4.54 billion years ago by accretion from the solar nebula, a disk-shaped mass of dust and gas left over from the formation of the Sun, which also created the rest of the Solar System.

Paratethys A large shallow sea that stretched from the region north of the Alps over Central Europe to the Aral Sea in Central Asia

The Paratethys ocean, Paratethys sea or just Paratethys was a large shallow inland sea that stretched from the region north of the Alps over Central Europe to the Aral Sea in Central Asia. The sea was formed during the Oxfordian stage of the Late Jurassic as an extension of the rift that formed the Central Atlantic Ocean and was isolated during the Oligocene epoch. It was separated from the Tethys Ocean to the south by the formation of the Alps, Carpathians, Dinarides, Taurus and Elburz mountains. During its long existence the Paratethys was at times reconnected with the Tethys or its successors, the Mediterranean Sea or Indian Ocean. From the Pliocene epoch onward, the Paratethys became progressively shallower. Today's Black Sea, Caspian Sea, Aral Sea, Lake Urmia, Namak Lake and others are remnants of the Paratethys Sea.

Natural history of New Zealand

The natural history of New Zealand begins when Zealandia broke away from Gondwana in the Cretaceous, before that time it shared its past with Australia and Antarctica. Since this separation the New Zealand biota and landscape has evolved in near isolation from the rest of the world. The exclusively natural history ends in about 1300 AD when humans first settled in New Zealand and the environmental history begins. This short period from 1300 AD till today coincides with the extinction of many of the unique species which evolved over New Zealand's natural history.

The Paleocene or Palaeocene, the "old recent", is a geological epoch that lasted from about 66 to 56 million years ago. It is the first epoch of the Paleogene Period in the modern Cenozoic Era. As with many geologic periods, the strata that define the epoch's beginning and end are well identified, but the exact ages remain uncertain.

Pliocene climate

During the Pliocene epoch climate became cooler and drier, and seasonal, similar to modern climates.

Evolution of primates The origin and diversification of primates through geologic time

The evolutionary history of the primates can be traced back 65 million years. One of the oldest known primate-like mammal species, the Plesiadapis, came from North America; another, Archicebus, came from China. Other similar basal primates were widespread in Eurasia and Africa during the tropical conditions of the Paleocene and Eocene. Purgatorius is the genus of the four extinct species believed to be the earliest example of a primate or a proto-primate, a primatomorph precursor to the Plesiadapiformes, dating to as old as 66 million years ago.

The Grit, not grass hypothesis is an evolutionary hypothesis that explains the evolution of high-crowned teeth, particularly in New World mammals. The hypothesis is that the ingestion of gritty soil is the primary driver of hypsodont tooth development, not the silica-rich composition of grass, as was previously thought.

Pisco Basin

Pisco Basin is a sedimentary basin extending over 300 kilometres (190 mi) in southwestern Peru. The basin has a 2 kilometres (6,600 ft) thick sedimentary fill, which is about half the thickness of more northern foreland basins in Peru. The oldest known sediments are Eocene sandstones, while the youngest deposits date to the Pliocene. In relation to present-day topography the fill of Pisco Basin makes the upper part of the Coastal Cordillera of southern Peru, the coastal plains, the Ica-Nazca Depression and the Andean foothills.


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