Carboniferous is a geologic period and system that spans 60
million years from the end of the
Devonian Period 358.9 million years
ago (Mya), to the beginning of the
Permian Period, 298.9 Mya. The name
Carboniferous means "coal-bearing" and derives from the
carbō ("coal") and ferō ("I bear, I carry"), and was coined by
geologists William Conybeare and William Phillips in 1822.
Based on a study of the British rock succession, it was the first of
the modern 'system' names to be employed, and reflects the fact that
many coal beds were formed globally during that time. The
Carboniferous is often treated in
North America as two geological
periods, the earlier Mississippian and the later Pennsylvanian.
Terrestrial animal life was well established by the Carboniferous
period. Amphibians were the dominant land vertebrates, of which one
branch would eventually evolve into amniotes, the first solely
Arthropods were also very common, and many (such as Meganeura) were
much larger than those of today. Vast swaths of forest covered the
land, which would eventually be laid down and become the coal beds
characteristic of the
Carboniferous stratigraphy evident today. The
atmospheric content of oxygen also reached their highest levels in
geological history during the period, 35% compared with 21% today,
allowing terrestrial invertebrates to evolve to great size.
The later half of the period experienced glaciations, low sea level,
and mountain building as the continents collided to form Pangaea. A
major marine and terrestrial extinction event, the Carboniferous
rainforest collapse, occurred at the end of the period, caused by
4 Rocks and coal
5.2 Marine invertebrates
5.3 Freshwater and lagoonal invertebrates
5.4 Terrestrial invertebrates
6 Extinction events
6.1 Romer's gap
Carboniferous rainforest collapse
7 See also
10 External links
United States the
Carboniferous is usually broken into
Mississippian (earlier) and Pennsylvanian (later) subperiods. The
Mississippian is about twice as long as the Pennsylvanian, but due to
the large thickness of coal-bearing deposits with Pennsylvanian ages
in Europe and North America, the two subperiods were long thought to
have been more or less equal in duration. In Europe the Lower
Carboniferous sub-system is known as the Dinantian, comprising the
Visean Series, dated at 362.5-332.9 Ma, and the Upper
Carboniferous sub-system is known as the Silesian, comprising the
Namurian, Westphalian, and Stephanian Series, dated at 332.9-298.9 Ma.
The Silesian is roughly contemporaneous with the late Mississippian
Serpukhovian plus the Pennsylvanian. In Britain the
traditionally known as the
Carboniferous Limestone, the
the Millstone Grit, and the Westphalian as the
Coal Measures and
The faunal stages from youngest to oldest, together with some of their
Gzhelian (most recent)
Noginskian / Virgilian (part)
Late Pennsylvanian: Kasimovian
Dorogomilovksian / Virgilian (part)
Chamovnicheskian / Cantabrian / Missourian
Krevyakinskian / Cantabrian / Missourian
Middle Pennsylvanian: Moscovian
Myachkovskian / Bolsovian / Desmoinesian
Podolskian / Desmoinesian
Kashirskian / Atokan
Vereiskian / Bolsovian / Atokan
Bashkirian / Morrowan
Melekesskian / Duckmantian
Cheremshanskian / Langsettian
Late Mississippian: Serpukhovian
Chokierian / Chesterian / Elvirian
Arnsbergian / Elvirian
Middle Mississippian: Visean
Brigantian / St Genevieve / Gasperian / Chesterian
Asbian / Meramecian
Holkerian / Salem
Arundian / Warsaw / Meramecian
Chadian / Keokuk / Osagean (part) / Osage (part)
Ivorian / (part) / Osage (part)
Hastarian / Kinderhookian / Chouteau
A global drop in sea level at the end of the
Devonian reversed early
in the Carboniferous; this created the widespread inland seas and the
carbonate deposition of the Mississippian. There was also a drop
in south polar temperatures; southern Gondwanaland was glaciated
throughout the period, though it is uncertain if the ice sheets were a
holdover from the
Devonian or not. These conditions apparently had
little effect in the deep tropics, where lush swamps, later to become
coal, flourished to within 30 degrees of the northernmost
Generalized geographic map of the
United States in Middle
Mid-Carboniferous, a drop in sea level precipitated a major marine
extinction, one that hit crinoids and ammonites especially hard.
This sea level drop and the associated unconformity in North America
separate the Mississippian subperiod from the Pennsylvanian
subperiod. This happened about 323 million years ago, at the onset
Permo-Carboniferous Glaciation.
Carboniferous was a time of active mountain-building, as the
Pangaea came together. The southern continents remained
tied together in the supercontinent Gondwana, which collided with
North America–Europe (Laurussia) along the present line of eastern
North America. This continental collision resulted in the Hercynian
orogeny in Europe, and the
Alleghenian orogeny in North America; it
also extended the newly uplifted Appalachians southwestward as the
Ouachita Mountains. In the same time frame, much of present
Eurasian plate welded itself to Europe along the line of the
Ural Mountains. Most of the
Mesozoic supercontinent of Pangea was now
assembled, although North China (which would collide in the Latest
Carboniferous), and South China continents were still separated from
Laurasia. The Late
Pangaea was shaped like an "O."
There were two major oceans in the Carboniferous—
Paleo-Tethys, which was inside the "O" in the
Other minor oceans were shrinking and eventually closed - Rheic Ocean
(closed by the assembly of South and North America), the small,
Ural Ocean (which was closed by the collision of
Siberia continents, creating the Ural Mountains) and Proto-Tethys
Ocean (closed by North China collision with Siberia/Kazakhstania).
Average global temperatures in the Early
Carboniferous Period were
high: approximately 20 °C (68 °F). However, cooling during
Carboniferous reduced average global temperatures to about
12 °C (54 °F). Lack of growth rings of fossilized trees
suggest a lack of seasons of a tropical climate. Glaciations in
Gondwana, triggered by Gondwana's southward movement, continued into
Permian and because of the lack of clear markers and breaks, the
deposits of this glacial period are often referred to as
Permo-Carboniferous in age.
The thicker atmosphere and stronger coriolis effect due to Earth's
faster rotation (a day lasted for 22.4 hours in early Carboniferous)
created significantly stronger winds than today.
The cooling and drying of the climate led to the Carboniferous
Rainforest Collapse (CRC) during the late Carboniferous. Tropical
rainforests fragmented and then were eventually devastated by climate
Rocks and coal
Carboniferous marble in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Wasatch
Carboniferous rocks in Europe and eastern
North America largely
consist of a repeated sequence of limestone, sandstone, shale and coal
beds. In North America, the early
Carboniferous is largely marine
limestone, which accounts for the division of the
two periods in North American schemes. The
Carboniferous coal beds
provided much of the fuel for power generation during the Industrial
Revolution and are still of great economic importance.
The large coal deposits of the
Carboniferous may owe their existence
primarily to two factors. The first of these is the appearance of wood
tissue and bark-bearing trees. The evolution of the wood fiber lignin
and the bark-sealing, waxy substance suberin variously opposed decay
organisms so effectively that dead materials accumulated long enough
to fossilise on a large scale. The second factor was the lower sea
levels that occurred during the
Carboniferous as compared to the
Devonian period. This promoted the development of extensive
lowland swamps and forests in
North America and Europe. Based on a
genetic analysis of mushroom fungi, it was proposed that large
quantities of wood were buried during this period because animals and
decomposing bacteria had not yet evolved enzymes that could
effectively digest the resistant phenolic lignin polymers and waxy
suberin polymers. They suggest that fungi that could break those
substances down effectively only became dominant towards the end of
the period, making subsequent coal formation much rarer.
Carboniferous trees made extensive use of lignin. They had bark to
wood ratios of 8 to 1, and even as high as 20 to 1. This compares to
modern values less than 1 to 4. This bark, which must have been used
as support as well as protection, probably had 38% to 58% lignin.
Lignin is insoluble, too large to pass through cell walls, too
heterogeneous for specific enzymes, and toxic, so that few organisms
Basidiomycetes fungi can degrade it. To oxidize it requires
an atmosphere of greater than 5% oxygen, or compounds such as
peroxides. It can linger in soil for thousands of years and its toxic
breakdown products inhibit decay of other substances. One possible
reason for its high percentages in plants at that time was to provide
protection from insects in a world containing very effective insect
herbivores (but nothing remotely as effective as modern insectivores)
and probably many fewer protective toxins produced naturally by plants
than exist today. As a result, undegraded carbon built up, resulting
in the extensive burial of biologically fixed carbon, leading to an
increase in oxygen levels in the atmosphere; estimates place the peak
oxygen content as high as 35%, as compared to 21% today. This
oxygen level may have increased wildfire activity. It also may have
promoted gigantism of insects and amphibians — creatures that have
been constrained in size by respiratory systems that are limited in
their physiological ability to transport and distribute oxygen at the
lower atmospheric concentrations that have since been available.
In eastern North America, marine beds are more common in the older
part of the period than the later part and are almost entirely absent
by the late Carboniferous. More diverse geology existed elsewhere, of
course. Marine life is especially rich in crinoids and other
echinoderms. Brachiopods were abundant. Trilobites became quite
uncommon. On land, large and diverse plant populations existed. Land
vertebrates included large amphibians.
Etching depicting some of the most significant plants of the
Wikisource has the text of the 1879
American Cyclopædia article Coal
Carboniferous land plants, some of which were preserved in coal
balls, were very similar to those of the preceding Late Devonian, but
new groups also appeared at this time.
Ancient in situ lycopsid, probably Sigillaria, with attached
Base of a lycopsid showing connection with bifurcating stigmarian
The main Early
Carboniferous plants were the Equisetales
Sphenophyllales (scrambling plants),
Lepidodendrales (scale trees),
Medullosales (informally included in the "seed ferns", an artificial
assemblage of a number of early gymnosperm groups) and the
Cordaitales. These continued to dominate throughout the period, but
during late Carboniferous, several other groups,
Callistophytales (another group of "seed ferns"), and the
Voltziales (related to and sometimes included under the conifers),
Carboniferous lycophytes of the order Lepidodendrales, which are
cousins (but not ancestors) of the tiny club-moss of today, were huge
trees with trunks 30 meters high and up to 1.5 meters in diameter.
Lepidodendron (with its cone called Lepidostrobus),
Anabathra, Lepidophloios and Sigillaria. The roots of several of these
forms are known as Stigmaria. Unlike present-day trees, their
secondary growth took place in the cortex, which also provided
stability, instead of the xylem. The Cladoxylopsids were large
trees, that were ancestors of ferns, first arising in the
The fronds of some
Carboniferous ferns are almost identical with those
of living species. Probably many species were epiphytic. Fossil ferns
and "seed ferns" include Pecopteris, Cyclopteris, Neuropteris,
Alethopteris, and Sphenopteris; Megaphyton and Caulopteris were tree
Equisetales included the common giant form Calamites, with a trunk
diameter of 30 to 60 cm (24 in) and a height of up to
20 m (66 ft).
Sphenophyllum was a slender climbing plant
with whorls of leaves, which was probably related both to the
calamites and the lycopods.
Cordaites, a tall plant (6 to over 30 meters) with strap-like leaves,
was related to the cycads and conifers; the catkin-like reproductive
organs, which bore ovules/seeds, is called Cardiocarpus. These plants
were thought to live in swamps. True coniferous trees (Walchia, of the
order Voltziales) appear later in the Carboniferous, and preferred
higher drier ground.
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In the oceans the most important marine invertebrate groups are the
Foraminifera, corals, Bryozoa, Ostracoda, brachiopods, ammonoids,
hederelloids, microconchids and echinoderms (especially crinoids). For
the first time foraminifera take a prominent part in the marine
faunas. The large spindle-shaped genus Fusulina and its relatives were
abundant in what is now Russia, China, Japan, North America; other
important genera include Valvulina, Endothyra, Archaediscus, and
Saccammina (the latter common in Britain and Belgium). Some
Carboniferous genera are still extant.
The microscopic shells of radiolarians are found in cherts of this age
in the Culm of
Devon and Cornwall, and in Russia, Germany and
elsewhere. Sponges are known from spicules and anchor ropes, and
include various forms such as the Calcispongea Cotyliscus and
Girtycoelia, the demosponge Chaetetes, and the genus of unusual
colonial glass sponges Titusvillia.
Both reef-building and solitary corals diversify and flourish; these
include both rugose (for example, Caninia, Corwenia, Neozaphrentis),
heterocorals, and tabulate (for example, Chladochonus, Michelinia)
Conularids were well represented by Conularia
Bryozoa are abundant in some regions; the fenestellids including
Fenestella, Polypora, and Archimedes, so named because it is in the
shape of an Archimedean screw. Brachiopods are also abundant; they
include productids, some of which (for example, Gigantoproductus)
reached very large (for brachiopods) size and had very thick shells,
while others like
Chonetes were more conservative in form. Athyridids,
spiriferids, rhynchonellids, and terebratulids are also very common.
Inarticulate forms include Discina and Crania. Some species and genera
had a very wide distribution with only minor variations.
Annelids such as Serpulites are common fossils in some horizons. Among
the mollusca, the bivalves continue to increase in numbers and
importance. Typical genera include Aviculopecten, Posidonomya, Nucula,
Carbonicola, Edmondia, and Modiola Gastropods are also numerous,
including the genera Murchisonia, Euomphalus, Naticopsis. Nautiloid
cephalopods are represented by tightly coiled nautilids, with
straight-shelled and curved-shelled forms becoming increasingly rare.
Goniatite ammonoids are common.
Trilobites are rarer than in previous periods, on a steady trend
towards extinction, represented only by the proetid group. Ostracoda,
a class of crustaceans, were abundant as representatives of the
meiobenthos; genera included Amphissites, Bairdia, Beyrichiopsis,
Cavellina, Coryellina, Cribroconcha, Hollinella, Kirkbya, Knoxiella,
Amongst the echinoderms, the crinoids were the most numerous. Dense
submarine thickets of long-stemmed crinoids appear to have flourished
in shallow seas, and their remains were consolidated into thick beds
of rock. Prominent genera include Cyathocrinus, Woodocrinus, and
Actinocrinus. Echinoids such as
Archaeocidaris and Palaeechinus were
also present. The blastoids, which included the Pentreinitidae and
Codasteridae and superficially resembled crinoids in the possession of
long stalks attached to the seabed, attain their maximum development
at this time.
Aviculopecten subcardiformis; a bivalve from the Logan Formation
(Lower Carboniferous) of
Wooster, Ohio (external mold).
Bivalves (Aviculopecten) and brachiopods (Syringothyris) in the Logan
Formation (Lower Carboniferous) in Wooster, Ohio.
Syringothyris sp.; a spiriferid brachiopod from the Logan Formation
(Lower Carboniferous) of
Wooster, Ohio (internal mold).
Palaeophycus ichnosp.; a trace fossil from the
Logan Formation (Lower
Carboniferous) of Wooster, Ohio.
Crinoid calyx from the Lower
Carboniferous of Ohio with a conical
platyceratid gastropod (Palaeocapulus acutirostre) attached.
Conulariid from the Lower
Carboniferous of Indiana.
Tabulate coral (a syringoporid); Boone
Limestone (Lower Carboniferous)
near Hiwasse, Arkansas.
Freshwater and lagoonal invertebrates
Carboniferous invertebrates include various bivalve
molluscs that lived in brackish or fresh water, such as Anthraconaia,
Naiadites, and Carbonicola; diverse crustaceans such as Candona,
Carbonita, Darwinula, Estheria, Acanthocaris, Dithyrocaris, and
Carboniferous giant spider-like eurypterid
to legspans of 50 cm (20 in).
The Eurypterids were also diverse, and are represented by such genera
Megarachne (originally misinterpreted as a giant
spider, hence its name) and the specialised very large Hibbertopterus.
Many of these were amphibious.
Frequently a temporary return of marine conditions resulted in marine
or brackish water genera such as Lingula, Orbiculoidea, and Productus
being found in the thin beds known as marine bands.
Fossil remains of air-breathing insects, myriapods and
arachnids are known from the late Carboniferous, but so far not
from the early Carboniferous. The first true priapulids appeared
during this period. Their diversity when they do appear, however,
shows that these arthropods were both well developed and numerous.
Their large size can be attributed to the moistness of the environment
(mostly swampy fern forests) and the fact that the oxygen
concentration in the Earth's atmosphere in the
Carboniferous was much
higher than today. This required less effort for respiration and
allowed arthropods to grow larger with the up to 2.6-meter-long
(8.5 ft) millipede-like
Arthropleura being the largest-known land
invertebrate of all time. Among the insect groups are the huge
Protodonata (griffinflies), among which was Meganeura, a
giant dragonfly-like insect and with a wingspan of ca. 75 cm
(30 in)—the largest flying insect ever to roam the planet.
Further groups are the Syntonopterodea (relatives of present-day
mayflies), the abundant and often large sap-sucking
Palaeodictyopteroidea, the diverse herbivorous Protorthoptera, and
Dictyoptera (ancestors of cockroaches). Many
insects have been obtained from the coalfields of
Commentry, and from the hollow trunks of fossil trees in Nova Scotia.
Some British coalfields have yielded good specimens: Archaeoptitus,
from the Derbyshire coalfield, had a spread of wing extending to more
than 35 cm (14 in); some specimens (Brodia) still exhibit
traces of brilliant wing colors. In the Nova Scotian tree trunks land
snails (Archaeozonites, Dendropupa) have been found.
Carboniferous giant dragonfly-like insect
Meganeura grew to
wingspans of 75 cm (30 in).
Pulmonoscorpius from the early
Carboniferous reached a
length of up to 70 cm (28 in).
Many fish inhabited the
Carboniferous seas; predominantly
Elasmobranchs (sharks and their relatives). These included some, like
Psammodus, with crushing pavement-like teeth adapted for grinding the
shells of brachiopods, crustaceans, and other marine organisms. Other
sharks had piercing teeth, such as the Symmoriida; some, the
petalodonts, had peculiar cycloid cutting teeth. Most of the sharks
were marine, but the
Xenacanthida invaded fresh waters of the coal
swamps. Among the bony fish, the
Palaeonisciformes found in coastal
waters also appear to have migrated to rivers. Sarcopterygian fish
were also prominent, and one group, the Rhizodonts, reached very large
Most species of
Carboniferous marine fish have been described largely
from teeth, fin spines and dermal ossicles, with smaller freshwater
fish preserved whole.
Freshwater fish were abundant, and include the genera Ctenodus,
Uronemus, Acanthodes, Cheirodus, and Gyracanthus.
Sharks (especially the Stethacanthids) underwent a major evolutionary
radiation during the Carboniferous. It is believed that this
evolutionary radiation occurred because the decline of the placoderms
at the end of the
Devonian period caused many environmental niches to
become unoccupied and allowed new organisms to evolve and fill these
niches. As a result of the evolutionary radiation Carboniferous
sharks assumed a wide variety of bizarre shapes including
Stethacanthus which possessed a flat brush-like dorsal fin with a
patch of denticles on its top. Stethacanthus's unusual fin may
have been used in mating rituals.
Akmonistion of the shark order
Symmoriida roamed the oceans of the
Falcatus was a
Carboniferous shark, with a high degree of sexual
Carboniferous amphibians were diverse and common by the middle of the
period, more so than they are today; some were as long as 6 meters,
and those fully terrestrial as adults had scaly skin. They
included a number of basal tetrapod groups classified in early books
under the Labyrinthodontia. These had long bodies, a head covered with
bony plates and generally weak or undeveloped limbs. The largest were
over 2 meters long. They were accompanied by an assemblage of smaller
amphibians included under the Lepospondyli, often only about
15 cm (6 in) long. Some
Carboniferous amphibians were
aquatic and lived in rivers (Loxomma, Eogyrinus, Proterogyrinus);
others may have been semi-aquatic (Ophiderpeton, Amphibamus,
Hyloplesion) or terrestrial (Dendrerpeton, Tuditanus, Anthracosaurus).
Carboniferous Rainforest Collapse
Carboniferous Rainforest Collapse slowed the evolution of
amphibians who could not survive as well in the cooler, drier
conditions. Reptiles, however, prospered due to specific key
adaptations. One of the greatest evolutionary innovations of the
Carboniferous was the amniote egg, which allowed the laying of eggs in
a dry environment, allowing for the further exploitation of the land
by certain tetrapods. These included the earliest sauropsid reptiles
(Hylonomus), and the earliest known synapsid (Archaeothyris). These
small lizard-like animals quickly gave rise to many descendants,
reptiles, birds, and mammals.
Reptiles underwent a major evolutionary radiation in response to the
drier climate that preceded the rainforest collapse. By the
end of the
Carboniferous period, amniotes had already diversified into
a number of groups, including protorothyridids, captorhinids,
araeoscelids, and several families of pelycosaurs.
The amphibian-like Pederpes, the most primitive Mississippian tetrapod
Hylonomus, the earliest sauropsid reptile, appeared in the
Petrolacosaurus, the first diapsid reptile known, lived during the
Archaeothyris was a very early synapsid and the oldest known.
Because plants and animals were growing in size and abundance in this
time (for example, Lepidodendron), land fungi diversified further.
Marine fungi still occupied the oceans. All modern classes of fungi
were present in the Late
Carboniferous (Pennsylvanian Epoch).
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (June
Main article: Romer's gap
The first 15 million years of the
Carboniferous had very limited
terrestrial fossils. This gap in the fossil record is called Romer's
gap after the American palaentologist Alfred Romer. While it has long
been debated whether the gap is a result of fossilisation or relates
to an actual event, recent work indicates the gap period saw a drop in
atmospheric oxygen levels, indicating some sort of ecological
collapse. The gap saw the demise of the
ichthyostegalian labyrinthodonts, and the rise of the more advanced
temnospondyl and reptiliomorphan amphibians that so typify the
Carboniferous terrestrial vertebrate fauna.
Carboniferous rainforest collapse
Carboniferous Rainforest Collapse
Before the end of the
Carboniferous Period, an extinction event
occurred. On land this event is referred to as the Carboniferous
Rainforest Collapse (CRC). Vast tropical rainforests collapsed
suddenly as the climate changed from hot and humid to cool and arid.
This was likely caused by intense glaciation and a drop in sea
The new climatic conditions were not favorable to the growth of
rainforest and the animals within them. Rainforests shrank into
isolated islands, surrounded by seasonally dry habitats. Towering
lycopsid forests with a heterogeneous mixture of vegetation were
replaced by much less diverse tree-fern dominated flora.
Amphibians, the dominant vertebrates at the time, fared poorly through
this event with large losses in biodiversity; reptiles continued to
diversify due to key adaptations that let them survive in the drier
habitat, specifically the hard-shelled egg and scales, both of which
retain water better than their amphibian counterparts.
Carboniferous Rainforest Collapse
East Kirkton Quarry; c. 350 mya; Bathgate, Scotland
Hamilton Quarry; 320 mya; Kansas, US
Mazon Creek; 300 mya; Illinois, US
List of fossil sites
List of fossil sites (with link directory)
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60+ images of
Geologic history of Earth
Quaternary (present–2.588 Mya)
Holocene (present–11.784 kya)
Pleistocene (11.784 kya–2.588 Mya)
Neogene (2.588–23.03 Mya)
Pliocene (2.588–5.333 Mya)
Miocene (5.333–23.03 Mya)
Paleogene (23.03–66.0 Mya)
Oligocene (23.03–33.9 Mya)
Eocene (33.9–56.0 Mya)
Paleocene (56.0–66.0 Mya)
Cretaceous (66.0–145.0 Mya)
Late (66.0–100.5 Mya)
Early (100.5–145.0 Mya)
Jurassic (145.0–201.3 Mya)
Late (145.0–163.5 Mya)
Middle (163.5–174.1 Mya)
Early (174.1–201.3 Mya)
Triassic (201.3–251.902 Mya)
Late (201.3–237 Mya)
Middle (237–247.2 Mya)
Early (247.2–251.902 Mya)
Permian (251.902–298.9 Mya)
Lopingian (251.902–259.8 Mya)
Guadalupian (259.8–272.3 Mya)
Cisuralian (272.3–298.9 Mya)
Carboniferous (298.9–358.9 Mya)
Pennsylvanian (298.9–323.2 Mya)
Mississippian (323.2–358.9 Mya)
Devonian (358.9–419.2 Mya)
Late (358.9–382.7 Mya)
Middle (382.7–393.3 Mya)
Early (393.3–419.2 Mya)
Silurian (419.2–443.8 Mya)
Pridoli (419.2–423.0 Mya)
Ludlow (423.0–427.4 Mya)
Wenlock (427.4–433.4 Mya)
Llandovery (433.4–443.8 Mya)
Ordovician (443.8–485.4 Mya)
Late (443.8–458.4 Mya)
Middle (458.4–470.0 Mya)
Early (470.0–485.4 Mya)
Cambrian (485.4–541.0 Mya)
Furongian (485.4–497 Mya)
Series 3 (497–509 Mya)
Series 2 (509–521 Mya)
Terreneuvian (521–541.0 Mya)
(541.0 Mya–2.5 Gya)
Neoproterozoic era (541.0 Mya–1 Gya)
Ediacaran (541.0-~635 Mya)
Cryogenian (~635-~720 Mya)
Tonian (~720 Mya-1 Gya)
Mesoproterozoic era (1–1.6 Gya)
Stenian (1-1.2 Gya)
Ectasian (1.2-1.4 Gya)
Calymmian (1.4-1.6 Gya)
Paleoproterozoic era (1.6–2.5 Gya)
Statherian (1.6-1.8 Gya)
Orosirian (1.8-2.05 Gya)
Rhyacian (2.05-2.3 Gya)
Siderian (2.3-2.5 Gya)
Archean eon² (2.5–4 Gya)
Neoarchean (2.5–2.8 Gya)
Mesoarchean (2.8–3.2 Gya)
Paleoarchean (3.2–3.6 Gya)
Eoarchean (3.6–4 Gya)
Hadean eon² (4–4.6 Gya)
kya = thousands years ago. Mya = millions years ago.
Gya = billions
years ago.¹ =
Phanerozoic eon. ² =
Source: (2017/02). International Commission on Stratigraphy. Retrieved
13 July 2015. Divisions of Geologic Time—Major Chronostratigraphic
and Geochronologic Units USGS Retrieved 10 March 2013.