Geologic Time Scale - Table of Geologic Time

Table of Geologic Time

The following table summarizes the major events and characteristics of the periods of time making up the geologic time scale. As above, this time scale is based on the International Commission on Stratigraphy. (See lunar geologic timescale for a discussion of the geologic subdivisions of Earth's moon.) This table is arranged with the most recent geologic periods at the top, and the most ancient at the bottom. The height of each table entry does not correspond to the duration of each subdivision of time.

The content of the table is based on the current official geologic time scale of the International Commission on Stratigraphy, with the epoch names altered to the early/late format from lower/upper as recommended by the ICS when dealing with chronostratigraphy.

Geologic time scale
Supereon Eon Era Period Epoch Age Major events Start, million years ago
n/a Phanerozoic Cenozoic
Quaternary Holocene

chrons: Subatlantic · Subboreal · Atlantic · Boreal · Preboreal

The last glacial period ends; rise of human civilization. Quaternary Ice Age recedes, and the current interglacial begins. Younger Dryas cold spell occurs, Sahara forms from savannah, and agriculture begins, allowing humans to build cities. Paleolithic/Neolithic (Stone Age) cultures begin around 10000 BC, giving way to Copper Age (3500 BC) and Bronze Age (2500 BC). Cultures continue to grow in complexity and technical advancement through the Iron Age (1200 BC), giving rise to many pre-historic cultures throughout the world, eventually leading into Classical Antiquity, such as the Roman Empire and even to the Middle Ages and present day. Little Ice Age (stadial) causes brief cooling in Northern Hemisphere from 1400 to 1850. Also refer to the List of archaeological periods for clarification on early cultures and ages. Mount Tambora erupts in 1815, causing the Year Without a Summer (1816) in Europe and North America from a volcanic winter. Following the Industrial Revolution, Atmospheric CO2 levels rise from around 280 parts per million volume (ppmv) to the current level of 390 ppmv. 0.011700
Pleistocene Upper (locally Tarantian · Tyrrhenian · Eemian · Sangamonian) Flourishing and then extinction of many large mammals (Pleistocene megafauna). Evolution of anatomically modern humans. Quaternary Ice Age continues with glaciations and interstadials (and the accompanying fluctuations from 100 to 300 ppmv in atmospheric CO2 levels), further intensification of Icehouse Earth conditions, roughly 1.6 Ma. Last glacial maximum (30000 years ago), last glacial period (18000–15000 years ago). Dawn of human stone-age cultures, with increasing technical complexity relative to previous ice age cultures, such as engravings and clay statues (e.g. Venus of Lespugue), particularly in the Mediterranean and Europe. Lake Toba supervolcano erupts 75000 years before present, causing a volcanic winter that pushes humanity to the brink of extinction. Pleistocene ends with Oldest Dryas, Older Dryas/Allerød and Younger Dryas climate events, with Younger Dryas forming the boundary with the Holocene. 0.126
Middle (formerly Ionian) 0.781
Calabrian 1.806*
Gelasian 2.588*
Neogene Pliocene Piacenzian/Blancan Intensification of present Icehouse conditions, present (Quaternary) ice age begins roughly 2.58 Ma; cool and dry climate. Australopithecines, many of the existing genera of mammals, and recent mollusks appear. Homo habilis appears. 3.600*
Zanclean 5.333*
Miocene Messinian Moderate Icehouse climate, puncuated by ice ages; Orogeny in northern hemisphere. Modern mammal and bird families become recognizable. Horses and mastodons diverse. Grasses become ubiquitous. First apes appear (for reference see the article: "Sahelanthropus tchadensis"). Kaikoura Orogeny forms Southern Alps in New Zealand, continues today. Orogeny of the Alps in Europe slows, but continues to this day. Carpathian orogeny forms Carpathian Mountains in Central and Eastern Europe. Hellenic orogeny in Greece and Aegean Sea slows, but continues to this day. Middle Miocene Disruption occurs. Widespread forests slowly draw in massive amounts of CO2, gradually lowering the level of atmospheric CO2 from 650 ppmv down to around 100 ppmv. 7.246*
Tortonian 11.62*
Serravallian 13.82*
Langhian 15.97
Burdigalian 20.44
Aquitanian 23.03*
Paleogene Oligocene Chattian Warm but cooling climate, moving towards Icehouse; Rapid evolution and diversification of fauna, especially mammals. Major evolution and dispersal of modern types of flowering plants 28.1
Rupelian 33.9*
Eocene Priabonian Moderate, cooling climate. Archaic mammals (e.g. Creodonts, Condylarths, Uintatheres, etc) flourish and continue to develop during the epoch. Appearance of several "modern" mammal families. Primitive whales diversify. First grasses. Reglaciation of Antarctica and formation of its ice cap; Azolla event triggers ice age, and the Icehouse Earth climate that would follow it to this day, from the settlement and decay of seafloor algae drawing in massive amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide, lowering it from 3800 ppmv down to 650 ppmv. End of Laramide and Sevier Orogenies of the Rocky Mountains in North America. Orogeny of the Alps in Europe begins. Hellenic Orogeny begins in Greece and Aegean Sea. 38.0
Bartonian 41.3
Lutetian 47.8*
Ypresian 56.0*
Paleocene Thanetian Climate tropical. Modern plants appear; Mammals diversify into a number of primitive lineages following the extinction of the dinosaurs. First large mammals (up to bear or small hippo size). Alpine orogeny in Europe and Asia begins. Indian Subcontinent collides with Asia 55 Ma, Himalayan Orogeny starts between 52 and 48 Ma. 59.2*
Selandian 61.6*
Danian 66.0*
Mesozoic Cretaceous Upper Maastrichtian Flowering plants proliferate, along with new types of insects. More modern teleost fish begin to appear. Ammonoidea, belemnites, rudist bivalves, echinoids and sponges all common. Many new types of dinosaurs (e.g. Tyrannosaurs, Titanosaurs, duck bills, and horned dinosaurs) evolve on land, as do Eusuchia (modern crocodilians); and mosasaurs and modern sharks appear in the sea. Primitive birds gradually replace pterosaurs. Monotremes, marsupials and placental mammals appear. Break up of Gondwana. Beginning of Laramide and Sevier Orogenies of the Rocky Mountains. Atmospheric CO2 close to present-day levels. 72.1 ± 0.2*
Campanian 83.6 ± 0.2
Santonian 86.3 ± 0.5
Coniacian 89.8 ± 0.3
Turonian 93.9*
Cenomanian 100.5*
Lower Albian c. 113.0
Aptian c. 125.0
Barremian c. 129.4
Hauterivian c. 132.9
Valanginian c. 139.8
Berriasian c. 145.0
Jurassic Upper Tithonian Gymnosperms (especially conifers, Bennettitales and cycads) and ferns common. Many types of dinosaurs, such as sauropods, carnosaurs, and stegosaurs. Mammals common but small. First birds and lizards. Ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs diverse. Bivalves, Ammonites and belemnites abundant. Sea urchins very common, along with crinoids, starfish, sponges, and terebratulid and rhynchonellid brachiopods. Breakup of Pangaea into Gondwana and Laurasia. Nevadan orogeny in North America. Rantigata and Cimmerian Orogenies taper off. Atmospheric CO2 levels 4–5 times the present day levels (1200–1500 ppmv, compared to today's 385 ppmv). 152.1 ± 0.9
Kimmeridgian 157.3 ± 1.0
Oxfordian 163.5 ± 1.0
Middle Callovian 166.1 ± 1.2
Bathonian 168.3 ± 1.3*
Bajocian 170.3 ± 1.4*
Aalenian 174.1 ± 1.0*
Lower Toarcian 182.7 ± 0.7
Pliensbachian 190.8 ± 1.0*
Sinemurian 199.3 ± 0.3*
Hettangian 201.3 ± 0.2*
Triassic Upper Rhaetian Archosaurs dominant on land as dinosaurs, in the oceans as Ichthyosaurs and nothosaurs, and in the air as pterosaurs. Cynodonts become smaller and more mammal-like, while first mammals and crocodilia appear. Dicroidium flora common on land. Many large aquatic temnospondyl amphibians. Ceratitic ammonoids extremely common. Modern corals and teleost fish appear, as do many modern insect clades. Andean Orogeny in South America. Cimmerian Orogeny in Asia. Rangitata Orogeny begins in New Zealand. Hunter-Bowen Orogeny in Northern Australia, Queensland and New South Wales ends, (c. 260–225 Ma) c. 208.5
Norian c. 228
Carnian c. 235*
Middle Ladinian c. 242*
Anisian 247.2
Lower Olenekian 251.2
Induan 252.2 ± 0.5*
Paleozoic Permian Lopingian Changhsingian Landmasses unite into supercontinent Pangaea, creating the Appalachians. End of Permo-Carboniferous glaciation. Synapsid reptiles (pelycosaurs and therapsids) become plentiful, while parareptiles and temnospondyl amphibians remain common. In the mid-Permian, coal-age flora are replaced by cone-bearing gymnosperms (the first true seed plants) and by the first true mosses. Beetles and flies evolve. Marine life flourishes in warm shallow reefs; productid and spiriferid brachiopods, bivalves, forams, and ammonoids all abundant. Permian-Triassic extinction event occurs 251 Ma: 95% of life on Earth becomes extinct, including all trilobites, graptolites, and blastoids. Ouachita and Innuitian orogenies in North America. Uralian orogeny in Europe/Asia tapers off. Altaid orogeny in Asia. Hunter-Bowen Orogeny on Australian Continent begins (c. 260–225 Ma), forming the MacDonnell Ranges. 254.2 ± 0.1*
Wuchiapingian 259.9 ± 0.4*
Guadalupian Capitanian 265.1 ± 0.4*
Wordian/Kazanian 268.8 ± 0.5*
Roadian/Ufimian 272.3 ± 0.5*
Cisuralian Kungurian 279.3 ± 0.6
Artinskian 290.1 ± 0.1
Sakmarian 295.5 ± 0.4
Asselian 298.9 ± 0.2*
Upper Gzhelian Winged insects radiate suddenly; some (esp. Protodonata and Palaeodictyoptera) are quite large. Amphibians common and diverse. First reptiles and coal forests (scale trees, ferns, club trees, giant horsetails, Cordaites, etc.). Highest-ever atmospheric oxygen levels. Goniatites, brachiopods, bryozoa, bivalves, and corals plentiful in the seas and oceans. Testate forams proliferate. Uralian orogeny in Europe and Asia. Variscan orogeny occurs towards middle and late Mississippian Periods. 303.7 ± 0.1
Kasimovian 307.0 ± 0.1
Middle Moscovian 315.2 ± 0.2
Lower Bashkirian 323.2 ± 0.4*
Upper Serpukhovian Large primitive trees, first land vertebrates, and amphibious sea-scorpions live amid coal-forming coastal swamps. Lobe-finned rhizodonts are dominant big fresh-water predators. In the oceans, early sharks are common and quite diverse; echinoderms (especially crinoids and blastoids) abundant. Corals, bryozoa, goniatites and brachiopods (Productida, Spiriferida, etc.) very common, but trilobites and nautiloids decline. Glaciation in East Gondwana. Tuhua Orogeny in New Zealand tapers off. 330.9 ± 0.2
Middle Viséan 346.7 ± 0.4*
Lower Tournaisian 358.9 ± 0.4*
Devonian Upper Famennian First clubmosses, horsetails and ferns appear, as do the first seed-bearing plants (progymnosperms), first trees (the progymnosperm Archaeopteris), and first (wingless) insects. Strophomenid and atrypid brachiopods, rugose and tabulate corals, and crinoids are all abundant in the oceans. Goniatite ammonoids are plentiful, while squid-like coleoids arise. Trilobites and armoured agnaths decline, while jawed fishes (placoderms, lobe-finned and ray-finned fish, and early sharks) rule the seas. First amphibians still aquatic. "Old Red Continent" of Euramerica. Beginning of Acadian Orogeny for Anti-Atlas Mountains of North Africa, and Appalachian Mountains of North America, also the Antler, Variscan, and Tuhua Orogeny in New Zealand. 372.2 ± 1.6*
Frasnian 382.7 ± 1.6*
Middle Givetian 387.7 ± 0.8*
Eifelian 393.3 ± 1.2*
Lower Emsian 407.6 ± 2.6*
Pragian 410.8 ± 2.8*
Lochkovian 419.2 ± 3.2*
Silurian Pridoli no faunal stages defined First Vascular plants (the rhyniophytes and their relatives), first millipedes and arthropleurids on land. First jawed fishes, as well as many armoured jawless fish, populate the seas. Sea-scorpions reach large size. Tabulate and rugose corals, brachiopods (Pentamerida, Rhynchonellida, etc.), and crinoids all abundant. Trilobites and mollusks diverse; graptolites not as varied. Beginning of Caledonian Orogeny for hills in England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and the Scandinavian Mountains. Also continued into Devonian period as the Acadian Orogeny, above. Taconic Orogeny tapers off. Lachlan Orogeny on Australian Continent tapers off. 423.0 ± 2.3*
Ludlow/Cayugan Ludfordian 425.6 ± 0.9*
Gorstian 427.4 ± 0.5*
Wenlock Homerian/Lockportian 430.5 ± 0.7*
Sheinwoodian/Tonawandan 433.4 ± 0.8*
Telychian/Ontarian 438.5 ± 1.1*
Aeronian 440.8 ± 1.2*
Rhuddanian 443.4 ± 1.5*
Ordovician Upper Hirnantian Invertebrates diversify into many new types (e.g., long straight-shelled cephalopods). Early corals, articulate brachiopods (Orthida, Strophomenida, etc.), bivalves, nautiloids, trilobites, ostracods, bryozoa, many types of echinoderms (crinoids, cystoids, starfish, etc.), branched graptolites, and other taxa all common. Conodonts (early planktonic vertebrates) appear. First green plants and fungi on land. Ice age at end of period. 445.2 ± 1.4*
Katian 453.0 ± 0.7*
Sandbian 458.4 ± 0.9*
Middle Darriwilian 467.3 ± 1.1*
Dapingian 470.0 ± 1.4*
Lower Floian
(formerly Arenig)
477.7 ± 1.4*
Tremadocian 485.4 ± 1.9*
Cambrian Furongian Stage 10 Major diversification of life in the Cambrian Explosion. Numerous fossils; most modern animal phyla appear. First chordates appear, along with a number of extinct, problematic phyla. Reef-building Archaeocyatha abundant; then vanish. Trilobites, priapulid worms, sponges, inarticulate brachiopods (unhinged lampshells), and many other animals numerous. Anomalocarids are giant predators, while many Ediacaran fauna die out. Prokaryotes, protists (e.g., forams), fungi and algae continue to present day. Gondwana emerges. Petermann Orogeny on the Australian Continent tapers off (550–535 Ma). Ross Orogeny in Antarctica. Adelaide Geosyncline (Delamerian Orogeny), majority of orogenic activity from 514–500 Ma. Lachlan Orogeny on Australian Continent, c. 540–440 Ma. Atmospheric CO2 content roughly 20–35 times present-day (Holocene) levels (6000 ppmv compared to today's 385 ppmv) c. 489.5
Jiangshanian c. 494*
Paibian c. 497*
Series 3 Guzhangian c. 500.5*
Drumian c. 504.5*
Stage 5 c. 509
Series 2 Stage 4 c. 514
Stage 3 c. 521
Terreneuvian Stage 2 c. 529
Fortunian 541.0 ± 1.0*
Ediacaran Good fossils of the first multi-celled animals. Ediacaran biota flourish worldwide in seas. Simple trace fossils of possible worm-like Trichophycus, etc. First sponges and trilobitomorphs. Enigmatic forms include many soft-jellied creatures shaped like bags, disks, or quilts (like Dickinsonia). Taconic Orogeny in North America. Aravalli Range orogeny in Indian Subcontinent. Beginning of Petermann Orogeny on Australian Continent. Beardmore Orogeny in Antarctica, 633–620 Ma. c. 635*
Cryogenian Possible "Snowball Earth" period. Fossils still rare. Rodinia landmass begins to break up. Late Ruker / Nimrod Orogeny in Antarctica tapers off. 850
Tonian Rodinia supercontinent persists. Trace fossils of simple multi-celled eukaryotes. First radiation of dinoflagellate-like acritarchs. Grenville Orogeny tapers off in North America. Pan-African orogeny in Africa. Lake Ruker / Nimrod Orogeny in Antarctica, 1000 ± 150 Ma. Edmundian Orogeny (c. 920 - 850 Ma), Gascoyne Complex, Western Australia. Adelaide Geosyncline laid down on Australian Continent, beginning of Adelaide Geosyncline (Delamerian Orogeny) in that continent. 1000
Stenian Narrow highly metamorphic belts due to orogeny as Rodinia forms. Late Ruker / Nimrod Orogeny in Antarctica possibly begins. Musgrave Orogeny (c. 1080 Ma), Musgrave Block, Central Australia. 1200
Ectasian Platform covers continue to expand. Green algae colonies in the seas. Grenville Orogeny in North America. 1400
Calymmian Platform covers expand. Barramundi Orogeny, McArthur Basin, Northern Australia, and Isan Orogeny, c. 1600 Ma, Mount Isa Block, Queensland 1600
Statherian First complex single-celled life: protists with nuclei. Columbia is the primordial supercontinent. Kimban Orogeny in Australian Continent ends. Yapungku Orogeny on Yilgarn craton, in Western Australia. Mangaroon Orogeny, 1680–1620 Ma, on the Gascoyne Complex in Western Australia. Kararan Orogeny (1650-Ma), Gawler Craton, South Australia. 1800
Orosirian The atmosphere becomes oxygenic. Vredefort and Sudbury Basin asteroid impacts. Much orogeny. Penokean and Trans-Hudsonian Orogenies in North America. Early Ruker Orogeny in Antarctica, 2000 - 1700 Ma. Glenburgh Orogeny, Glenburgh Terrane, Australian Continent c. 2005–1920 Ma. Kimban Orogeny, Gawler craton in Australian Continent begins. 2050
Rhyacian Bushveld Igneous Complex forms. Huronian glaciation. 2300
Siderian Oxygen catastrophe: banded iron formations forms. Sleaford Orogeny on Australian Continent, Gawler Craton 2440–2420 Ma. 2500
Archean Neoarchean Stabilization of most modern cratons; possible mantle overturn event. Insell Orogeny, 2650 ± 150 Ma. Abitibi greenstone belt in present-day Ontario and Quebec begins to form, stablizes by 2600 Ma. 2800
Mesoarchean First stromatolites (probably colonial cyanobacteria). Oldest macrofossils. Humboldt Orogeny in Antarctica. Blake River Megacaldera Complex begins to form in present-day Ontario and Quebec, ends by roughly 2696 Ma. 3200
Paleoarchean First known oxygen-producing bacteria. Oldest definitive microfossils. Oldest cratons on Earth (such as the Canadian Shield and the Pilbara Craton) may have formed during this period. Rayner Orogeny in Antarctica. 3600
Eoarchean Simple single-celled life (probably bacteria and archaea). Oldest probable microfossils. 4000
Early Imbrian Indirect photosynthetic evidence (e.g., kerogen) of primordial life. This era overlaps the end of the Late Heavy Bombardment of the inner solar system. c.3850
Nectarian This unit gets its name from the lunar geologic timescale when the Nectaris Basin and other greater lunar basins form by big impact events. c.3920
Basin Groups Oldest known rock (4030 Ma). The first life forms and self-replicating RNA molecules evolve around 4000 Ma, after the Late Heavy Bombardment ends on Earth. Napier Orogeny in Antarctica, 4000 ± 200 Ma. c.4150
Cryptic Oldest known mineral (Zircon, 4404 ± 8 Ma). Formation of Moon (4533 Ma), probably from giant impact. Formation of Earth (4567.17 to 4570 Ma) c.4600

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