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The Precambrian or Pre-Cambrian; sometimes abbreviated p is the largest span of time

in Earth's history before the current Phanerozoic Eon, and is a Supereon divided into
several eons of the geologic time scale. It spans from the formation of Earth about 4.6 billion
years ago (Ga) to the beginning of the Cambrian Period, about 541.0 1.0 million years ago
(Ma), when hard-shelled creatures first appeared in abundance. The Precambrian is so
named because it precedes the Cambrian, the first period of the Phanerozoic Eon, which is
named after Cambria, the classical name for Wales, where rocks from this age were first
studied. The Precambrian accounts for 88% of geologic time.
Relatively little is known about the Precambrian, despite it making up roughly seven-eighths
of the Earth's history, and what is known has largely been discovered from the 1960s
onwards. The Precambrian fossil record is poorer than that of the succeeding Phanerozoic,
and those fossils present (e.g. stromatolites) are of limited biostratigraphic use. This is
because many Precambrian rocks have been heavilymetamorphosed, obscuring their
origins, while others have been destroyed by erosion, or remain deeply buried beneath
Phanerozoic strata.
It is thought that the Earth itself coalesced from material in orbit around the Sun roughly
4500 Ma, or 4.5 billion years ago (Ga), and may have been struck by a very large (Marssized) planetesimal shortly after it formed, splitting off material that formed
the Moon (see Giant impact hypothesis). A stable crust was apparently in place by 4400 Ma,
since zircon crystals from Western Australia have been dated at 4404 Ma.
The term Precambrian is recognized by the International Commission on Stratigraphy as a
general term including the Archean and Proterozoic eons. It is still used
by geologists and paleontologists for general discussions not requiring the more specific eon
names. It was briefly also called the Cryptozoic eon.

Precambrian time covers the vast bulk of the Earth's history, starting with the planet's
creation about 4.5 billion years ago and ending with the emergence of complex, multicelled
life-forms almost four billion years later.
The Precambrian is the earliest of the geologic ages, which are marked by different
layers of sedimentary rock. Laid down over millions of years, these rock layers contain a
permanent record of the Earth's past, including the fossilized remains of plants and animals
buried when the sediments were formed.
The Earth was already more than 600 million years old when life began. The planet had
cooled down from its original molten state, developing a solid crust and oceans created from
water vapor in the atmosphere. Many scientists think these primordial seas gave rise to life,
with hot, mineral-rich volcanic vents acting as catalysts for chemical reactions across the
surface of tiny water bubbles, which led to the first cell membranes. Other bubbles are
thought to have formed self-replicating substances by attracting chemicals from around
them. Over time the two combined to produce energy-using, living cells.
The earliest living organisms were microscopic bacteria, which show up in the fossil
record as early as 3.4 billion years ago. As their numbers multiplied and supplies of their
chemical fuel were eaten up, bacteria sought out an alternative energy source. New
varieties began to harness the power of the sun through a biochemical process known as
photosynthesisa move that would ultimately lead to simple plants and which opened the
planet up to animal life.

Some three billion years ago the Earth's atmosphere was virtually devoid of oxygen. At
about 2.4 billion years ago, oxygen was released from the seas as a byproduct of
photosynthesis by cyanobacteria. Levels of the gas gradually climbed, reaching about one
percent around two billion years ago. About 800 million years ago, oxygen levels reached
about 21 percent and began to breathe life into more complex organisms. The oxygen-rich
ozone layer was also established, shielding the Earth's surface from harmful solar radiation.
Unfamiliar Life-Forms
The first multicelled animals appeared in the fossil record almost 600 million years ago.
Known as the Ediacarans, these bizarre creatures bore little resemblance to modern lifeforms. They grew on the seabed and lacked any obvious heads, mouths, or digestive organs.
Fossils of the largest known among them, Dickinsonia, resemble a ribbed doormat. What
happened to the mysterious Ediacarans isn't clear. They could be the ancestors of later
animals, or they may have been completely erased by extinction.
The earliest multicelled animals that survived the Precambrian fall into three main
categories. The simplest of these soft-bodied creatures were sponges. Lacking organs or a
nervous system, they lived by drawing water through their bodies and filtering out food
particles. The cnidarians, which included sea anemones, corals, and jellyfish, had sac-like
bodies and a simple digestive system with a mouth but no anus. They caught food using
tentacles armed with microscopic stinging cells. The third group, the annelids, or
segmented flatworms, had fluid-filled body cavities and breathed through their skins.
It's thought the final stages of Precambrian time were marked by a prolonged global ice age.
This may have led to widespread extinctions, mirroring the bleak endings to the geologic
periods that followed.

The Paleozoic Era

The Paleozoic is bracketed by two of the most important events in the history of animal life.
At its beginning, multicelled animals underwent a dramatic "explosion" in diversity, and
almost all living animal phyla appeared within a few millions of years. At the other end of the
Paleozoic, the largest mass extinction in history wiped out approximately 90% of all marine
animal species. The causes of both these events are still not fully understood and the
subject of much research and controversy. Roughly halfway in between, animals, fungi, and
plants colonized the land, the insects took to the air, and the limestone shown in the photo
at right was deposited near Burlington, Missouri.
The Paleozoic took up over half approximately 300 million years (542 mya to 251 mya)*
of the Phanerozoic. During the Paleozoic there were six major continental land masses; each
of these consisted of different parts of the modern continents. For instance, at the beginning
of the Paleozoic, today's western coast of North America ran east-west along the equator,
while Africa was at the South Pole. These Paleozoic continents experienced tremendous
mountain building along their margins, and numerous incursions and retreats of shallow
seas across their interiors. Large limestone outcrops, like the one pictured here, are
evidence of these periodic incursions of continental seas. The Paleozoic Era is bracketed by
the times of global super-continents. The era opened with the breakup of the world-continent
Pannotia and closed with the formation of Pangea, as the Earth's continents came together
once again.
Many Paleozoic rocks are economically important. For example, much of the limestone
quarried for building and industrial purposes, as well as the coal deposits of western Europe
and the eastern United States, were formed during the Paleozoic.

The Paleozoic is divided into six periods:


the Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous (in the U.S., this is divided into
the Mississippian and Pennsylvanian Periods), and Permian. Most of these names derive from
locations where rocks of these ages were first studied. Cambria was the Latin name for
Wales, and the Ordovices and Silures were two Welsh Celtic tribes. The Devonian is named
for Devonshire, England. The Mississippian is named for the upper Mississippi River
valley, not the state of Mississippi, which has very few rocks of this age; however, the
Pennsylvanian is named for the state of Pennsylvania. The Permian was described from rocks
in the region of Perm, a town in the Ural Mountains of Russia. The exception to this naming
convention is the Carboniferous; its name means "coal-bearing," and this is a time when
extensive coal beds were formed around the world.
The Paleozoic (or Palaeozoic) Era (/plizok/ or /pelizok/; from the
Greek palaios (), "old" and zoe (), "life", meaning "ancient life") is the earliest of
three geologic eras of the Phanerozoic Eon, spanning from roughly541 to 252.17 million
years ago (ICS, 2004). It is the longest of the Phanerozoic eras, and is subdivided into
six geologic periods (from oldest to youngest):
the Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous, and Permian. The Paleozoic
comes after theNeoproterozoic Era of the Proterozoic Eon, and is followed by the Mesozoic
Era.
The Paleozoic was a time of dramatic geological, climatic, and evolutionary change.
The Cambrian Period witnessed the most rapid and widespread diversification of life in
Earth's history, known as the Cambrian explosion, in which most modern phyla first
appeared. Fish,arthropods, amphibians, reptiles, and synapsids all evolved during the
Paleozoic. Life began in the ocean but eventually transitioned onto land, and by the late
Paleozoic, it was dominated by various forms of organisms. Great forests of primitive plants
covered the continents, many of which formed the coal beds of Europe and eastern North
America. Towards the end of the era, large, sophisticatedreptiles were dominant and the first
modern plants (conifers) appeared.
The Paleozoic Era ended with the largest mass extinction in Earth's history, the Permian
Triassic extinction event. The effects of this catastrophe were so devastating that it took life
on land 30 million years into the Mesozoic to recover. Recovery of life in the sea may have
been much faster.

The Mesozoic Era


The Mesozoic Era is divided into three time periods: the Triassic (251-199.6 million years
ago), the Jurassic (199.6-145.5 million years ago), and the Cretaceous (145.5-65.5 million
years ago).*
Mesozoic means "middle animals," and is the time during which the world fauna changed
drastically from that which had been seen in the Paleozoic. Dinosaurs, which are perhaps the
most popular organisms of the Mesozoic, evolved in the Triassic, but were not very diverse
until the Jurassic. Except for birds, dinosaurs became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous.
Some of the last dinosaurs to have lived are found in the late Cretaceous deposits of
Montana in the United States.
The Mesozoic was also a time of great change in the terrestrial vegetation. The early
Mesozoic was dominated by ferns, cycads, ginkgophytes, bennettitaleans, and other unusual
plants. Modern gymnosperms, such as conifers, first appeared in their current recognizable

forms in the early Triassic. By the middle of the Cretaceous, the earliest angiosperms had
appeared and began to diversify, largely taking over from the other plant groups.

The Mesozoic Era /mzzok/ is an interval of geological time from


about 252 to 66 million years ago. It is also called the Age of Reptiles, a phrase introduced
by the 19th century paleontologist Gideon Mantell who viewed it as dominated by reptiles
such asIguanodon, Megalosaurus, Plesiosaurus and what are now called Pseudosuchia.
Mesozoic means "middle life", deriving from the Greek prefix meso-/- for "between"
and zon/ meaning "animal" or "living being". It is one of three geologic eras of
the Phanerozoic Eon, preceded by the Paleozoic ("ancient life") and succeeded by
theCenozoic ("new life"). The era is subdivided into three major periods:
the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous, which are further subdivided into a number of epochs
and stages.
The era began in the wake of the PermianTriassic extinction event, the largest welldocumented mass extinction in Earth's history, and ended with the CretaceousPaleogene
extinction event, another mass extinction which is known for having killed off nonavian dinosaurs, as well as other plant and animal species. The Mesozoic was a time of
significant tectonic, climate and evolutionary activity. The era witnessed the gradual rifting
of the supercontinent Pangaea into separate landmasses that would eventually move into
their current positions. The climate of the Mesozoic was varied, alternating between
warming and cooling periods. Overall, however, the Earth was hotter than it is today. Nonavian dinosaurs appeared in the Late Triassic and became the dominant terrestrial
vertebrates early in the Jurassic, occupying this position for about 135 million years until
their demise at the end of the Cretaceous. Birds first appeared in the Jurassic,
having evolved from a branch of theropod dinosaurs. The first mammals also appeared
during the Mesozoic, but would remain smallless than 15 kg (33 lb)until the Cenozoic.

The Cenozoic Era


The Cenozoic Era is the most recent of the three major subdivisions of animal history. The
other two are the Mesozoic and Paleozoic Eras. The Cenozoic spans only about 65 million
years, from the end of the Cretaceous Period and the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs to
the present. The Cenozoic is sometimes called the Age of Mammals, because the largest
land animals have been mammals during that time. This is a misnomer for several reasons.
First, the history of mammals began long before the Cenozoic began. Second, the diversity
of life during the Cenozoic is far wider than mammals. The Cenozoic could have been called
the "Age of Flowering Plants" or the "Age of Insects" or the "Age of Teleost Fish" or the "Age
of Birds" just as accurately.
The Cenozoic (65.5 million years ago to present) is divided into three periods: the Paleogene
(65.5 to 23.03 million years ago), Neogene (23.03 to 2.6 million years ago) and the
Quaternary (2.6 million years ago to present). Paleogene and Neogene are relatively new
terms that now replace the deprecated term, Tertiary. The Paleogene is subdivided into three
epochs: the Paleocene (65.5 to 55.8 million years ago), the Eocene (55.8 to 33.9 million
years ago), and the Oligocene (33.9 to 23.03 million years ago). The Neogene is subdivided
into two epochs: the Miocene (23.03 to 5.332 million years ago) and Pliocene (5.332 to
2.588 million years ago).*

Stratigraphy
The concepts of Tertiary and Quaternary have an interesting history. In the 1760s and 1770s
a geologist named Giovanni Arduino was studying the rocks and minerals in Tuscany. He
classified mountains according to the type of rocks that he found in them. Unfossiliferous
schists, granites, and basalts (all volcanic rocks) that formed the cores of large mountains he
called Primitive. Fossil-rich rocks of limestone and clay that were found on the flanks of
mountains over the Primitive rocks were called Secondary. Finally, there were another group
of fossiliferous rocks of limestones and sandstones lying over the Secondary rocks and
forming the foothills of the mountains that Anduino called Tertiary. So at first, Tertiary
referred to a certain type of rock found in the area of Tuscany. But later, geologists used the
fossils found in the Tertiary rocks there to recognize rocks of the same age elsewhere. Rocks
with the same species of fossils were the same age.

Extensive Tertiary age rocks were recognized in the Paris Basin, which is the area around
Paris, France. In the 1820s and 1830s Charles Lyell, a noted English geologist who had a
great influence on Charles Darwin, subdivided the Tertiary rocks of the Paris Basin on their
fossils. Lyell came up with an ingenious idea. He noticed that the rocks at the top of the
section had a very high percentage of fossils of living mollusc species. Those at the bottom
of the section had very few living forms. He deduced that this difference was because of the
extinction of older forms and the evolution of living forms during the time that the rocks
were being deposited. He divided the Tertiary rocks into three sub-ages: the Pliocene, the
Miocene, and the Eocene. 90% of the fossil molluscs in Pliocene rocks were living today. In
the Miocene rocks, only 18% of the molluscs were of living species, and in Eocene rocks,
only 9.5%.
These subdivisions of the Tertiary have been correlated around the world using the fossil
species in them. Rocks with the same species as Lyell's Eocene, are considered to be the
same age as those in the Paris Basin. The same goes for the other subdivisions. Some time
later it was noted that in areas other than the Paris Basin, there were rocks that seemed to
be from time periods that were not represented in Lyell's sequence. This was because during
those periods there had been no deposition in what would later be the Paris Basin. These
two periods, later designated Oligocene and Paleocene, were inserted into the Tertiary in
their proper places.
The Cenozoic Era (/snzok/ or /sinzok/;
also Cnozoic, Caenozoic or Cainozoic /kanozok/ or /kenozok/; meaning "new
life", from Greek kainos "new", and zoe "life") is the current and most recent of
the three Phanerozoic geological eras, following the Mesozoic Era and covering the period
from 65 million years ago to present day.
The Cenozoic is also known as the Age of Mammals, because the extinction of many
groups allowed mammals to greatly diversify.