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Events of the Cenozoic
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-60 —
-55 —
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N. Amer. prairie expands[1]
First Antarctic permanent ice-sheets[2]
Holocene begins 11.5 ka ago
Q
An approximate timescale of key Cenozoic events.
Axis scale: Ma before present.

The Tertiary is a term for a geologic period 66 million to 1.8 million years ago. The Tertiary covered the time span between the superseded Secondary period and the Quaternary. The period began with the demise of the non-avian dinosaurs in the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event, at the start of the Cenozoic era, spanning to the beginning of the most recent Ice Age, at the end of the Pliocene epoch.

Contents

Historical use of the term

The term Tertiary was first used by Giovanni Arduino in 1759. He classified geologic time into primitive (or primary), secondary, and tertiary periods based on observations of geology in northern Italy.[4] Later a fourth period, the Quaternary, was applied. In 1828, Charles Lyell incorporated a Tertiary period into his own, far more detailed system of classification. He subdivided the Tertiary period into four epochs according to the percentage of fossil mollusks resembling modern species found in those strata. He used Greek names: Eocene, Miocene, Older Pliocene and Newer Pliocene. Although these divisions seemed adequate for the region to which the designations were originally applied (parts of the Alps and plains of Italy), when the same system was later extended to other parts of Europe and to America, it proved to be inapplicable. Therefore, the use of mollusks was abandoned from the definition and the epochs were renamed and redefined.

The Tertiary is not presently recognized as a formal unit by the International Commission on Stratigraphy[5], its traditional span being divided between the Paleogene, Neogene, and Quaternary (Gelasian age).

Geological events

Tectonic activity continued as Gondwana finally split completely apart, and India collided with the Eurasian plate. South America was connected to North America toward the end of the Tertiary. Antarctica — which was already separate — drifted to its current position over the South Pole. Widespread volcanic activity was prevalent.

Climate

Climates during the Tertiary slowly cooled, starting off in the Paleocene with tropical-to-moderate worldwide temperatures and ending before the first extensive glaciation at the start of the Quaternary.

Life form events

At the beginning of the period, mammals replaced reptiles as the dominant vertebrates. Each epoch of the Tertiary was marked by striking developments in mammalian life. The earliest recognizable hominoid relatives of humans such as Proconsul. Modern types of birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates were either already numerous at the beginning of the period or appeared early in its history. Modern families of flowering plants evolved. Marine invertebrates and non-mammal marine vertebrates experienced only modest evolution.

References

  1. ^ Retallack, G.J. (1997). "Neogene Expansion of the North American Prairie". PALAIOS 12 (4): 380-390. http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0883-1351(199708)12%3A4%3C380%3ANEOTNA%3E2.0.CO%3B2-Q. Retrieved 2008-02-11. 
  2. ^ Zachos, J.C.; Kump, L.R. (2005). "Carbon cycle feedbacks and the initiation of Antarctic glaciation in the earliest Oligocene". Global and Planetary Change 47 (1): 51-66. doi:10.1016/j.gloplacha.2005.01.001. Bibcode2005GPC....47...51Z. 
  3. ^ Krijgsman, W.; Garcés, M.; Langereis, C.G.; Daams, R.; Van Dam, J.; Van Der Meulen, A.J.; Agustí, J.; Cabrera, L. (1996). "A new chronology for the middle to late Miocene continental record in Spain". Earth and Planetary Science Letters 142 (3-4): 367-380. doi:10.1016/0012-821X(96)00109-4. 
  4. ^ Carl O. Dunbar, Historical Geology, 2nd ed. (1964), John Wiley & Sons, New York, p. 352
  5. ^ International Stratigraphic Chart
Neogene Period
Miocene Pliocene
Aquitanian | Burdigalian
Langhian | Serravallian
Tortonian | Messinian
Zanclean | Piacenzian
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1911 encyclopedia

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Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also tertiary

Contents

English

Adjective

Tertiary (not comparable)

Positive
Tertiary

Comparative
not comparable

Superlative
none (absolute)

  1. (geology) Of or pertaining to the first part of the Cenozoic era when modern flora and mammals appeared

Translations

Noun

Singular
Tertiary

Plural
uncountable

Tertiary (uncountable)

  1. (geology) The first part of the Cenozoic era when modern flora and mammals appeared

Translations


Simple English

The Tertiary is a geological period. It is the first part of the Cainozoic, and is divided into the Palaeogene (Palaeocene, Eocene, Oligocene) and the Neogene (Miocene and Pliocene).


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