The PLIOCENE ( /ˈplaɪəˌsiːn/ ; also PLEIOCENE ) 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
NeogenePeriod in the
CenozoicEra . The
Pliocenefollows the Miocene
Epoch and is followed by the
PleistoceneEpoch. Prior to the 2009
revision of the geologic time scale, which placed the four most recent
major glaciations entirely within the Pleistocene, the
Gelasianstage, which lasted from 2.588 to 1.806 million
years ago, and is now included in the Pleistocene.
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
Plioceneare not set at an easily identified worldwide
event but rather at regional boundaries between the warmer
the relatively cooler Pliocene. The upper boundary was set at the
start of the
* 1 Etymology
* 2 Subdivisions
* 3 Climate
* 4 Paleogeography
* 5 Flora
* 6 Fauna
* 6.1 Mammals
* 6.2 Birds
* 6.3 Reptiles and amphibians
* 7 Oceans
* 8 Supernovae
* 9 See also
* 10 References
* 11 Further reading
* 12 External links
Human timeline view • discuss • edit -10 — – -9 — –
-8 — – -7 — – -6 — – -5 — – -4 — – -3 — – -2
— – -1 — – 0 — Human-like
Australopithecus_ _HOMO HABILIS _
_HOMO ERECTUS _ _NEANDERTHAL _ _HOMO SAPIENS _
← Earlier apes ← Possibly bipedal ← Earliest
bipedal ← Earliest stone tools ← Earliest exit
Africa ← Earliest fire use ← Earliest cooking
← Earliest clothes ← Modern humans
Axis scale : millions of years .
Also see: _Life timeline _ and _Nature timeline _
Charles Lyell(later Sir Charles) gave the
Plioceneits name in
_Principles of Geology_ (volume 2, 1833). The word _pliocene_ comes
from the Greek words πλεῖον (_pleion_, "more") and καινός
(_kainos_, "new" or "recent") and means roughly "continuation of the
recent", referring to the essentially modern marine mollusc fauna.
H.W. Fowler called the term _Pliocene_ (like other geological jargon
such as _pleistocene_ and _miocene_) a "regrettable barbarism" and an
indication that even "a good classical scholar" such as Lyell should
have requested a philologist\'s help when coining words.
To summarize the usage of these _"regrettable barbarisms"_ in the
labelling of the
Cenozoic("recent life") era (from youngest to
πλεῖστος _pleīstos_ "most"
καινός, _kainós_ (Latinized as cænus) "new"
πλεῖον _pleion_ "more"
καινός _kainos_ "new"
μείων _meiōn_ “less”
καινός _kainos_ “new”
ὀλίγος _oligos_ "few"
καινός _kainos_ "new"
ἠώς _ēṓs_ "dawn"
καινός _kainós_ "new"
παλαιός _palaios_ "old(er)"
καινός _kainos_ "new"
with the understanding that these are all _new_ relative to the
Mesozoic("middle life" - the age of dinosaurs ) and
Trilobites, coal forests , and the earliest
In the official timescale of the ICS , the
into two stages . From youngest to oldest they are:
Piacenzianis sometimes referred to as the Late Pliocene, whereas
Zancleanis referred to as the Early Pliocene.
In the system of
North American Land Mammal Ages(NALMA) include Hemphillian
(9–4.75 Ma), and
Blancan(4.75–1.806 Ma). The
forward into the
South American Land Mammal Ages(SALMA) include Montehermosan
Chapadmalalan(4.0–3.0 Ma) and
Europeand parts of western Asia) the
Pliocenecontains the Dacian (roughly equal to the Zanclean) and
Romanian (roughly equal to the
stages. As usual in stratigraphy, there are many other regional and
local subdivisions in use.
In Britain the
Plioceneis divided into the following stages (old to
young): Gedgravian, Waltonian , Pre-Ludhamian, Ludhamian, Thurnian,
Bramertonian or Antian,
Pre-Pastonianor Baventian, Pastonian and
Beestonian . In the
Plioceneis 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
Pliocene climate Mid-
annual sea surface temperature anomaly
The global average temperature in the mid-
Pliocene(3.3–3 mya) was
2–3 °C higher than today, and carbon dioxide levels were the same
as today, global sea level 25 m higher and the Northern hemisphere
ice sheet was ephemeral before the onset of extensive glaciation over
Greenland that occurred in the late
Pliocenearound 3 Ma. The
formation of an Arctic ice cap is signaled by an abrupt shift in
oxygen isotope ratios and ice-rafted cobbles in the North
Pacific oceanbeds. Mid-latitude glaciation was probably
underway before the end of the epoch. The global cooling that occurred
Pliocenemay have spurred on the disappearance of forests
and the spread of grasslands and savannas.
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 Americabecame linked to North America
Isthmus of Panama
Isthmus of Panamaduring the Pliocene, making possible the
Great American Interchange
Great American Interchangeand 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
Atlanticcooling cycle began, with cold Arctic and Antarctic waters
dropping temperatures in the now-isolated
Africa's collision with
cutting off the remnants of the
Tethys Ocean. The border between the
Plioceneis also the time of the
Sea level changes exposed the land-bridge between
Pliocenemarine rocks are well exposed in the Mediterranean,
China. Elsewhere, they are exposed largely near shores.
The change to a cooler, dry, seasonal climate had considerable
Pliocenevegetation, reducing tropical species worldwide.
Deciduousforests 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
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
The land mass collisions meant great migration and mixing of
previously isolated species, such as in the Great American Interchange
Herbivoresgot bigger, as did specialized predators.
The gastropod _
Oliva sayana_, from the
The coral _
Cladocora_ from the
A gastropod and attached serpulid wormtube from the
The gastropod _
Turritellacarinata_ from the
The thorny oyster _
Spondylus_ right and left valve interiors from
Articulated _Spondylus_ from the
The limpet _Diodora italica_ from the
The scaphopod _Dentalium _ from the
The gastropod _
Aporrhais_ from the
The arcid bivalve _
Anadara_ from the
The pectenid bivalve _Ammusium cristatum_ from the
Vermetid gastropod _
Petaloconchus intortus_ attached to a branch of
the coral _Cladocora_ from the
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 _
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.
Eurasiarodents did well, while primate distribution declined.
Elephants , gomphotheres and stegodonts were successful in Asia, and
hyraxes migrated north from Africa.
Horsediversity 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
Pliocenemammals of North America
Africawas dominated by hoofed animals, and primates continued their
evolution, with australopithecines (some of the first hominins )
appearing in the late Pliocene.
Rodentswere successful, and elephant
populations increased. Cows and antelopes continued diversification
and overtaking pigs in numbers of species. Early giraffes appeared,
and camels migrated via Asia from North America. 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 Americawas 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.
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
Europeas the climate cooled.
Venomous snakegenera continued to increase as more rodents and birds
evolved. Rattlesnakes first appeared in the Pliocene. The modern
Alligatormississippiensis _, having evolved in the Miocene,
continued into the Pliocene, except with a more northern range;
specimens have been found in very late
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 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
Isthmus of Panamaabout 3.5 million years ago
cut off the final remnant of what was once essentially a
circum-equatorial current that had existed since the
Cenozoic. This may have contributed to further cooling of
the oceans worldwide.
Plioceneseas were alive with sea cows , seals ,sea lions and
In 2002, Narciso Benítez _et al._ calculated that roughly 2 million
years ago, around the end of the
Plioceneepoch, a group of bright O
and B stars called the Scorpius-Centaurus
OB associationpassed within
130 light-years of Earth and that one or more supernova explosions
gave rise to a feature known as the
Local Bubble. 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
List of fossil sites
List of fossil sites_(with link directory)_
* ^ "Pliocene". _
* ^ "Pliocene". _
* ^ "Pleiocene". _
* ^ See the 2014 version of the ICS geologic time scale Archived
2014-05-30 at the
* ^ Ogg, James George; Ogg, Gabi; Gradstein F. M. (2008). _The
Concise Geologic Time Scale_.
Cambridge UniversityPress. pp. 150–1.
ISBN 9780521898492 .
* ^ Compare the usage by
William Whewellin 1831 ("Pliocene".
Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary_ (3rd ed.).
Oxford University Press
Oxford University Press.
September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership
* ^ "Pliocene".
Online Etymology Dictionary
Online Etymology Dictionary.
* ^ Fowler, H.W. (2009). David Crystal, ed. _A Dictionary of Modern
English Usage: The Classic First Edition_ (Reissue ed.). USA: Oxford
University Press. ISBN 0-19-953534-5 .
* ^ 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-
Pleistoceneinterval and its
relation to the regional stratigraphical stages in the southern North
Sea region". _
NetherlandsJournal of Geosciences_. 85: 19–35. doi
* ^ Robinson, M.; Dowsett, H.J.; Chandler, M.A. (2008). "Pliocene
role in assessing future climate impacts" (PDF). _Eos Trans. Amer.
Geophys. U_. 89: 501–502.
* ^ "Solutions: Responding to Climate Change". _Climate.Nasa.gov_.
Retrieved 1 September 2016.
* ^ Dwyer, G.S.; Chandler, M.A. (2009). "Mid-
Pliocenesea level and
continental ice volume based on coupled benthic Mg/Ca
palaeotemperatures and oxygen isotopes". _Phil. Trans. Royal Soc. A_.
367: 157–168. doi :10.1098/rsta.2008.0222 .
* ^ Bartoli, G.; et al. (2005). "Final closure of Panama and the
onset of northern hemisphere glaciation". _Earth Planet. Sci. Lett_.
237: 3344. CS1 maint: Explicit use of et al. (link )
* ^ Van Andel (1994), p. 226.
* ^ "The
Plioceneepoch". _University of California Museum of
Paleontology_. Retrieved 2008-03-25.
* ^ Narciso Benítez, Jesús Maíz-Apellániz, and Matilde Canelles
et al. (2002). "Evidence for Nearby
SupernovaExplosions". _Phys. Rev.
Lett. _ 88 (8): 081101.
Bibcode:2002PhRvL..88h1101B. PMID 11863949 .
doi :10.1103/PhysRevLett.88.081101 . CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter
* ^ Katie Pennicott (Feb 13, 2002). "
Supernovalink to ancient
extinction". _physicsworld.com_. Retrieved 16 July 2012.
* ^ Comins William J. Kaufmann III (2005). _Discovering the
Universe_ (7th ed.). New York, NY: Susan Finnemore Brennan. ISBN
* Gradstein, F.M.; Ogg, J.G. 2004: _A Geologic Time Scale 2004_,
* Ogg, Jim (June 2004). "Overview of Global Boundary Stratotype
Sections and Points (GSSP\'s)". Archived from the original on
2006-04-23. Retrieved 2006-04-30.
* Van Andel, Tjeerd H. (1994). _New Views on an Old Planet: a
History of Global Change_ (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press. ISBN 0-521-44243-5 .
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PlioceneGlobal Warming: NASA/GISS Climate