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Cenozoic

The Cenozoic Era (also Cænozoic or Cainozoic, pronounced /ˌsɛnəˈzoʊ.ɨk, ˌsiːnəˈzoʊ.ɨk/; meaning "new life", from Greek καινός kainos "new", and ζωή zoe "life") is the most recent of the three classic geological eras and covers the period from 65.5 million years ago to the present. It is marked by the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous that saw the demise of the last non-avian dinosaurs and the end of the Mesozoic Era. The Cenozoic era is ongoing.

Subdivision

The Cenozoic is divided into two periods, the Tertiary (also sometimes divided into the Neogene and Paleogene periods) and the Quaternary.[4] The Quaternary was officially recognized by the International Commission on Stratigraphy in June 2009.[5]

Tectonics

Geologically, the Cenozoic is the era when the continents moved into their current positions. Australia-New Guinea, having split from Gondwana during the early Cretaceous, drifted north and, eventually, collided with South-east Asia; Antarctica moved into its current position over the South Pole; the Atlantic Ocean widened and, later in the era, South America became attached to North America.

India collided with Asia between 55 and 45 million years ago; Arabia collided with Eurasia, closing the Tethys ocean, around 35 million years ago.[6]

Climate

The Cenozoic Era has been a period of long-term cooling. After the tectonic creation of Drake Passage, when South America fully detached from Antarctica during the Oligocene, the climate cooled significantly due to the advent of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current which brought cool deep Antarctic water to the surface. The cooling trend continued in the Miocene, with relatively short warmer periods. When South America became attached to North America creating the Isthmus of Panama, the Arctic region cooled due to the strengthening of the Humboldt and Gulf Stream currents,[7] eventually leading to the glaciations of the Pleistocene ice age, the current interglacial of which is the Holocene epoch.


Life

The cenozoic Era is the age of new life. During the Cenozoic, mammals diverged from a few small, simple, generalized forms into a diverse collection of terrestrial, marine, and flying animals, giving this period its other name, the Age of Mammals, despite the fact that birds still outnumbered mammals two to one. The Cenozoic is just as much the age of savannas, the age of co-dependent flowering plants and insects, and the age of birds. Grass also played a very important role in this era, shaping the evolution of the birds and mammals that fed on it. One group that diversified significantly in the Cenozoic as well were the snakes. Evolving in the Cenozic, the variety of snakes increased tremendously, resulting in many colubrids, following the evolution of their current primary prey source, the rodents.

In the earlier part of the Cenozoic, the world was dominated by the gastornid birds, terrestrial crocodiles like Pristichampsus, and a handful of primitive large mammal groups like uintatheres, mesonychids, and pantodonts. But as the forests began to recede and the climate began to cool, other mammals took over. The cenozoic is full of mammals both strange and familiar, including chalicotheres, creodonts, whales, primates, entelodonts, saber-toothed cats, mastodons and mammoths, three-toed horses, giant rhinoceros like Indricotherium, and brontotheres.
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See also

* Geologic Time Scale
* K-T Boundary

Geologic time scale

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