Pliocene

Last updated
System/
Period
Series/
Epoch
Stage/
Age
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 Pliocene ( /ˈpləˌsn/ ; [2] [3] also Pleiocene [4] ) Epoch is the epoch in the geologic timescale that extends from 5.333 million to 2.58 [5] 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. [6]

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.

Before Present (BP) years is a time scale used mainly in archaeology, geology and other scientific disciplines to specify when events occurred in the past. Because the "present" time changes, standard practice is to use 1 January 1950 as the commencement date of the age scale, reflecting the origin of practical radiocarbon dating in the 1950s. The abbreviation "BP" has alternatively been interpreted as "Before Physics"; that is, before nuclear weapons testing artificially altered the proportion of the carbon isotopes in the atmosphere, making dating after that time likely to be unreliable.

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).

Contents

As with other older geologic periods, the geological strata that define the start and end are well identified but the exact dates of the start and end of the epoch are slightly uncertain. The boundaries defining the Pliocene are not set at an easily identified worldwide event but rather at regional boundaries between the warmer Miocene and the relatively cooler Pliocene. The upper boundary was set at the start of the Pleistocene glaciations.

Stratum layer of sedimentary rock or soil with internally consistent characteristics

In geology and related fields, a stratum is a layer of sedimentary rock or soil, or igneous rock that were formed at the Earth's surface, with internally consistent characteristics that distinguish it from other layers. The "stratum" is the fundamental unit in a stratigraphic column and forms the basis of the study of stratigraphy.

Etymology

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Charles Lyell (later Sir Charles) gave the Pliocene its name in Principles of Geology (volume 3, 1833). [7]

Charles Lyell British lawyer and geologist

Sir Charles Lyell, 1st Baronet, was a Scottish geologist who demonstrated the power of existing natural causes in explaining Earth history. He is best known as the author of Principles of Geology, which presented for a wide public audience the idea that the Earth was shaped by the same natural processes still in operation today, operating at similar intensities. The philosopher William Whewell termed this gradualistic view "uniformitarianism" and contrasted it with catastrophism, which had been championed by Georges Cuvier and was better accepted in Europe. The combination of evidence and eloquence in Principles convinced a wide range of readers of the significance of "deep time" for understanding the Earth and environment.

The word pliocene comes from the Greek words πλεῖον (pleion, "more") and καινός (kainos, "new" or "recent") [8] and means roughly "continuation of the recent", referring to the essentially modern marine mollusc fauna.

EpochLiterallyFirst ElementSecond Element
GreekTransliterationMeaningGreekTransliterationMeaning
Holocene whole-newὅλοςholos"whole" or "entire"καινόςkainós
(Latinized as cænus)
"new"
Pleistocene most-newπλεῖστοςpleīstos"most"
Pliocenemore-newπλεῖονpleion"more"
Miocene less-newμείωνmeiōn"less"
Oligocene few-newὀλίγοςoligos"few"
Eocene dawn-newἠώςēṓs"dawn"
Paleocene old-newπαλαιόςpalaios"old(er)"

These reflect the understanding that these are all new relative to the Mesozoic ("middle life" - the age of dinosaurs) and Paleozoic ("old life" - Trilobites, coal forests, and the earliest Synapsida) eras.

The Mesozoic Era is an interval of geological time from about 252 to 66 million years ago. It is also called the Age of Reptiles and the Age of Conifers.

The PaleozoicEra is the earliest of three geologic eras of the Phanerozoic Eon. It is the longest of the Phanerozoic eras, lasting from 541 to 251.902 million years ago, and is subdivided into six geologic periods : 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.

Coal forest

Coal forests were the vast swathes of wetlands that covered much of the Earth's tropical land areas during the late Carboniferous (Pennsylvanian) and Permian times. As vegetable matter from these forests decayed, enormous deposits of peat accumulated, which later changed into coal.

Subdivisions

In the official timescale of the ICS, the Pliocene is subdivided into two stages. From youngest to oldest they are:

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.

In chronostratigraphy, a stage is a succession of rock strata laid down in a single age on the geologic timescale, which usually represents millions of years of deposition. A given stage of rock and the corresponding age of time will by convention have the same name, and the same boundaries.

The Piacenzian is sometimes referred to as the Late Pliocene, whereas the Zanclean is referred to as the Early Pliocene.

In the system of

In the Paratethys area (central Europe and parts of western Asia) the Pliocene contains the Dacian (roughly equal to the Zanclean) and Romanian (roughly equal to the Piacenzian and Gelasian together) stages. As usual in stratigraphy, there are many other regional and local subdivisions in use.

In Britain the Pliocene is divided into the following stages (old to young): Gedgravian, Waltonian, Pre-Ludhamian, Ludhamian, Thurnian, Bramertonian or Antian, Pre-Pastonian or Baventian, Pastonian and Beestonian. In the Netherlands the Pliocene is divided into these stages (old to young): Brunssumian C, Reuverian A, Reuverian B, Reuverian C, Praetiglian, Tiglian A, Tiglian B, Tiglian C1-4b, Tiglian C4c, Tiglian C5, Tiglian C6 and Eburonian. The exact correlations between these local stages and the ICS stages is still a matter of detail. [9]

Climate

Mid-Pliocene reconstructed annual sea surface temperature anomaly Pliocene sst anomaly.png
Mid-Pliocene reconstructed annual sea surface temperature anomaly
19th century artist's impression of a Pliocene landscape Landscape of the Pliocene epoch - showing environment at the time of men's appearance - drawn by Riou.jpg
19th century artist's impression of a Pliocene landscape

The global average temperature in the mid-Pliocene (3.3–3 mya) was 2–3 °C higher than today, [10] carbon dioxide levels were the same as today, [11] and global sea level was 25 m higher. [12] The northern hemisphere ice sheet was ephemeral before the onset of extensive glaciation over Greenland that occurred in the late Pliocene around 3 Ma. [13] The formation of an Arctic ice cap is signaled by an abrupt shift in oxygen isotope ratios and ice-rafted cobbles in the North Atlantic and North Pacific ocean beds. [14] Mid-latitude glaciation was probably underway before the end of the epoch. The global cooling that occurred during the Pliocene may have spurred on the disappearance of forests and the spread of grasslands and savannas. [15]

Paleogeography

Examples of migrant species in the Americas after the formation of the Isthmus of Panama. Olive green silhouettes denote North American species with South American ancestors; blue silhouettes denote South American species of North American origin. Great American Biotic Interchange examples.svg
Examples of migrant species in the Americas after the formation of the Isthmus of Panama. Olive green silhouettes denote North American species with South American ancestors; blue silhouettes denote South American species of North American origin.

Continents continued to drift, moving from positions possibly as far as 250 km from their present locations to positions only 70 km from their current locations. South America became linked to North America through the Isthmus of Panama during the Pliocene, making possible the Great American Interchange and bringing a nearly complete end to South America's distinctive large marsupial predator and native ungulate faunas. The formation of the Isthmus had major consequences on global temperatures, since warm equatorial ocean currents were cut off and an Atlantic cooling cycle began, with cold Arctic and Antarctic waters dropping temperatures in the now-isolated Atlantic Ocean.

Africa's collision with Europe formed the Mediterranean Sea, cutting off the remnants of the Tethys Ocean. The border between the Miocene and the Pliocene is also the time of the Messinian salinity crisis.

Sea level changes exposed the land bridge between Alaska and Asia (Beringia).

Pliocene marine rocks are well exposed in the Mediterranean, India, and China. Elsewhere, they are exposed largely near shores.

During the Pliocene parts of southern Norway and southern Sweden that had been near sea level rose. In Norway this rise elevated the Hardangervidda plateau to 1200 m in the Early Pliocene. [16] In Southern Sweden similar movements elevated the South Swedish highlands leading to a deflection of the ancient Eridanos river from its original path across south-central Sweden into a course south of Sweden. [17]

Flora

The change to a cooler, dry, seasonal climate had considerable impacts on Pliocene vegetation, reducing tropical species worldwide. Deciduous forests proliferated, coniferous forests and tundra covered much of the north, and grasslands spread on all continents (except Antarctica). Tropical forests were limited to a tight band around the equator, and in addition to dry savannahs, deserts appeared in Asia and Africa.

Fauna

Both marine and continental faunas were essentially modern, although continental faunas were a bit more primitive than today. The first recognizable hominins, the australopithecines, appeared in the Pliocene.

The land mass collisions meant great migration and mixing of previously isolated species, such as in the Great American Interchange. Herbivores got bigger, as did specialized predators.

Mammals

In North America, rodents, large mastodons and gomphotheres, and opossums continued successfully, while hoofed animals (ungulates) declined, with camel, deer and horse all seeing populations recede. Rhinos, three toed horses ( Nannippus ), oreodonts, protoceratids, and chalicotheres became extinct. Borophagine dogs and Agriotherium became extinct, but other carnivores including the weasel family diversified, and dogs and short-faced bears did well. Ground sloths, huge glyptodonts, and armadillos came north with the formation of the Isthmus of Panama.

In Eurasia rodents did well, while primate distribution declined. Elephants, gomphotheres and stegodonts were successful in Asia, and hyraxes migrated north from Africa. Horse diversity declined, while tapirs and rhinos did fairly well. Cows and antelopes were successful, and some camel species crossed into Asia from North America. Hyenas and early saber-toothed cats appeared, joining other predators including dogs, bears and weasels.

Human evolution during the Pliocene
Pliocene
Pliocene mammals of North America Pliocene.jpg
Pliocene mammals of North America

Africa was dominated by hoofed animals, and primates continued their evolution, with australopithecines (some of the first hominins) appearing in the late Pliocene. Rodents were successful, and elephant populations increased. Cows and antelopes continued diversification and overtaking pigs in numbers of species. Early giraffes appeared. Horses and modern rhinos came onto the scene. Bears, dogs and weasels (originally from North America) joined cats, hyenas and civets as the African predators, forcing hyenas to adapt as specialized scavengers.

South America was invaded by North American species for the first time since the Cretaceous, with North American rodents and primates mixing with southern forms. Litopterns and the notoungulates, South American natives, were mostly wiped out, except for the macrauchenids and toxodonts, which managed to survive. Small weasel-like carnivorous mustelids, coatis and short-faced bears migrated from the north. Grazing glyptodonts, browsing giant ground sloths and smaller caviomorph rodents, pampatheres, and armadillos did the opposite, migrating to the north and thriving there.

The marsupials remained the dominant Australian mammals, with herbivore forms including wombats and kangaroos, and the huge Diprotodon . Carnivorous marsupials continued hunting in the Pliocene, including dasyurids, the dog-like thylacine and cat-like Thylacoleo . The first rodents arrived in Australia. The modern platypus, a monotreme, appeared.

Birds

Titanis Titanis07DB.jpg
Titanis

The predatory South American phorusrhacids were rare in this time; among the last was Titanis , a large phorusrhacid that migrated to North America and rivaled mammals as top predator. Other birds probably evolved at this time, some modern, some now extinct.

Reptiles and amphibians

Alligators and crocodiles died out in Europe as the climate cooled. Venomous snake genera continued to increase as more rodents and birds evolved. Rattlesnakes first appeared in the Pliocene. The modern species Alligator mississippiensis , having evolved in the Miocene, continued into the Pliocene, except with a more northern range; specimens have been found in very late Miocene deposits of Tennessee. Giant tortoises still thrived in North America, with genera like Hesperotestudo . Madtsoid snakes were still present in Australia. The amphibian order Allocaudata became extinct.

Oceans

Oceans continued to be relatively warm during the Pliocene, though they continued cooling. The Arctic ice cap formed, drying the climate and increasing cool shallow currents in the North Atlantic. Deep cold currents flowed from the Antarctic.

The formation of the Isthmus of Panama about 3.5 million years ago cut off the final remnant of what was once essentially a circum-equatorial current that had existed since the Cretaceous and the early Cenozoic. This may have contributed to further cooling of the oceans worldwide.

The Pliocene seas were alive with sea cows, seals, sea lions and sharks.

Supernovae

In 2002, Narciso Benítez et al. calculated that roughly 2 million years ago, around the end of the Pliocene epoch, a group of bright O and B stars called the Scorpius-Centaurus OB association passed within 130 light-years of Earth and that one or more supernova explosions gave rise to a feature known as the Local Bubble. [18] Such a close explosion could have damaged the Earth's ozone layer and caused the extinction of some ocean life (at its peak, a supernova of this size could have the same absolute magnitude as an entire galaxy of 200 billion stars). [19] [20]

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 Miocene 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 and καινός and means "less recent" because it has 18% fewer modern sea invertebrates than the Pliocene. The Miocene is preceded by the Oligocene and is followed by the Pliocene.

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 Pleistocene 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 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.

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, the Eocene Epoch, the Oligocene Epoch, the Miocene Epoch and the Pliocene Epoch, extending to the first stage of the Pleistocene Epoch, the Gelasian stage.

Timeline of glaciation Chronology of the major ice ages of the Earth

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.

The Zanclean is the lowest stage or earliest age on the geologic time scale of the Pliocene. It spans the time between 5.332 ± 0.005 Ma and 3.6 ± 0.005 Ma. It is preceded by the Messinian age of the Miocene epoch, and followed by the Piacenzian age.

The Gelasian is an age in the international geologic timescale or a stage in chronostratigraphy, being the earliest or lowest subdivision of the Quaternary period/system and Pleistocene epoch/series. It spans the time between 2.588 ± 0.005 Ma and 1.806 ± 0.005 Ma. It follows the Piacenzian stage and is followed by the Calabrian stage.

The Piacenzian is in the international geologic time scale the upper stage or latest age of the Pliocene. It spans the time between 3.6 ± 0.005 Ma and 2.588 ± 0.005 Ma. The Piacenzian is after the Zanclean and is followed by the Gelasian.

The Messinian is in the geologic timescale the last age or uppermost stage of the Miocene. It spans the time between 7.246 ± 0.005 Ma and 5.333 ± 0.005 Ma. It follows the Tortonian and is followed by the Zanclean, the first age of the Pliocene.

Calabrian is a subdivision of the Pleistocene Epoch of the geologic time scale, defined as ~1.8 Ma.—781,000 years ago ± 5,000 years, a period of ~1.019 million years.

The Blancan North American Stage on the geologic timescale is the North American faunal stage according to the North American Land Mammal Ages chronology (NALMA), typically set from 4,750,000 to 1,806,000 years BP, a period of 2.944 million years. It is usually considered to start in the early-mid Pliocene Epoch and end by the early Pleistocene. The Blancan is preceded by the Hemphillian and followed by the Irvingtonian NALMA stages.

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.

Choctaw Sea

The Choctaw Sea was a Cenozoic eutropical subsea, which along with the Okeechobean Sea, occupied the eastern Gulf of Mexico basin system bounding Florida.

Okeechobean Sea

The Okeechobean Sea was a Cenozoic eutropical subsea, which along with the Choctaw Sea, occupied the eastern Gulf of Mexico basin system bounding Florida.

Pliocene climate

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

References

  1. "ICS Timescale Chart". www.stratigraphy.org.
  2. "Pliocene". Merriam-Webster Dictionary .
  3. "Pliocene". Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House.
  4. "Pleiocene". Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House.
  5. See the 2014 version of the ICS geologic time scale Archived 2014-05-30 at the Wayback Machine
  6. Ogg, James George; Ogg, Gabi; Gradstein F. M. (2008). The Concise Geologic Time Scale. Cambridge University Press. pp. 150–1. ISBN   9780521898492.
  7. See:
  8. "Pliocene". Online Etymology Dictionary.
  9. Kuhlmann, G.; C.G. Langereis; D. Munsterman; R.-J. van Leeuwen; R. Verreussel; J.E. Meulenkamp; Th.E. Wong (2006). "Integrated chronostratigraphy of the Pliocene-Pleistocene interval and its relation to the regional stratigraphical stages in the southern North Sea region" (PDF). Netherlands Journal of Geosciences. 85: 19–35. doi:10.1017/S0016774600021405.
  10. Robinson, M.; Dowsett, H.J.; Chandler, M.A. (2008). "Pliocene role in assessing future climate impacts". Eos, Transactions, American Geophysical Union. 89 (49): 501–502. Bibcode:2008EOSTr..89..501R. doi:10.1029/2008eo490001.
  11. "Solutions: Responding to Climate Change". Climate.Nasa.gov. Retrieved 1 September 2016.
  12. Dwyer, G.S.; Chandler, M.A. (2009). "Mid-Pliocene sea level and continental ice volume based on coupled benthic Mg/Ca palaeotemperatures and oxygen isotopes". Phil. Trans. Royal Soc. A. 367 (1886): 157–168. Bibcode:2009RSPTA.367..157D. doi:10.1098/rsta.2008.0222. PMID   18854304.
  13. Bartoli, G.; et al. (2005). "Final closure of Panama and the onset of northern hemisphere glaciation". Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 237 (1–2): 3344. Bibcode:2005E&PSL.237...33B. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2005.06.020.
  14. Van Andel (1994), p. 226.
  15. "The Pliocene epoch". University of California Museum of Paleontology. Retrieved 2008-03-25.
  16. Japsen, Peter; Green, Paul F.; Chalmers, James A.; Bonow, Johan M. (17 May 2018). "Mountains of southernmost Norway: uplifted Miocene peneplains and re-exposed Mesozoic surfaces". Journal of the Geological Society. 175 (5): 721–741. doi:10.1144/jgs2017-157.
  17. Lidmar-Bergström, Karna; Olvmo, Mats; Bonow, Johan M. (2017). "The South Swedish Dome: a key structure for identification of peneplains and conclusions on Phanerozoic tectonics of an ancient shield". GFF .
  18. Narciso Benítez, Jesús Maíz-Apellániz, and Matilde Canelles et al. (2002). "Evidence for Nearby Supernova Explosions". Phys. Rev. Lett. 88 (8): 081101. arXiv: astro-ph/0201018 . Bibcode:2002PhRvL..88h1101B. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.88.081101. PMID   11863949.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  19. Katie Pennicott (Feb 13, 2002). "Supernova link to ancient extinction". physicsworld.com. Retrieved 16 July 2012.
  20. Comins & Kaufmann (2005), p. 359.

Further reading