Six Worlds on Earth

by Duane Bristow

We live on the Earth, the third planet from our sun, "Sol", in the Milky Way galaxy. We are sentient organic beings who have developed culture and technology. We live on a thin outer shell encasing that planet. We and other species of life are able to live in this thin shell because we evolved to fill a niche in the environment provided by that shell.

We are accustomed to this shell and therefore find it beautiful. As far as we know it is the only place in the universe which has the proper environment and resources to sustain our life and that of our companion species of plants and animals. The environment to which we are adapted is about 70% water mostly in oceans and in areas of land we see as seven continents. We have been able to discover almost two million species of multi-celled plants and animals (66,000 vertebrates, 1.3 million invertebrates, mostly insects, 308,000 plants and 52,000 fungi) and many more single celled organisms which share this planet with us. We are also aware of many parameters of the environment in which we exist such as weather, temperature ranges, climates, atmospheric gas ratios, soil structures, fresh water availability, and many others on which our existence is dependent. Therefore to the extent we are aware of all these things, our existence is known by us to be fragile and we think it is in peril.

What many of us may not realize is the fact that there have been five major extinction events, of which we are aware, on the Earth in its history and that makes our familar world the sixth such world which has existed on our home planet because in each of those extinction events almost all life on Earth was destroyed and took many millions of years to once again evolve to previous levels of complexity and became a different world each time as far as the species of life it supported and the overall physical environment.

Many of our scientists think that we may now be in the beginnings of a sixth major extinction event caused by our collective actions as a species over the last 200 years since the industrial revolution of our 10,000 years or so of agriculture of our 200,000 year existence as a species, Homo sapiens, and our two million year or so existence as a genera, Homo. Note that complex life has existed on earth for about the last 635 million years of the 4.3 billion years since Earth was formed.


Spheres representing all of Earth's water, Earth's liquid fresh water, and water in lakes and rivers

The largest sphere represents all of Earth's water. Its diameter is about 860 miles (the distance from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Topeka, Kansas) and has a volume of about 332,500,000 cubic miles (mi3) (1,386,000,000 cubic kilometers (km3)). This sphere includes all of the water in the oceans, ice caps, lakes, rivers, groundwater, atmospheric water, and even the water in you, your dog, and your tomato plant.

Time Coil

Contents:

  1. Big History
  2. Major Mass Extinction Events
  3. Geologic Periods
  4. Supercontinents
  5. The Biosphere

Here is a summary of the history of life on Earth:

Big History:

Let's start with an illustration of Big History.

If 1 foot=30 years, let's start walking back in time at 3 feet per step.

3'=1 step = 90 years - Lindbergh flies the Atlantic.

66'=22 steps = 2,000 years - Roman Empire.

388'=129 steps = 11,640 years - The Holocene epoch began. It was the end of the Ice Age beginning an interglacial period during which the glaciers receded.

The Holocene has seen the growth and impacts of the human species worldwide, including all its written history, development of major civilizations, and overall significant transition toward urban living in the present. Human impacts on modern-era Earth and its ecosystems may be considered of global significance for future evolution of living species, including approximately synchronous lithospheric evidence, or more recently hydrospheric and atmospheric evidence of human impacts.

400'=133 steps = 12,000 years - Dawn of Agriculture

6,667'=1.27 miles = 200,000 years - age of modern man.

12.6 miles = 2000,000 years - evolution of Homo genus, first man.


16 miles or 2.588 million years ago the Pleistocene epoch began.

The Pleistocene lasted from about 2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago, spanning the world's most recent period of repeated glaciations. The end of the Pleistocene corresponds with the end of the last glacial period. This epoch is often referred to as the Ice Age.


145 miles or 23.03 million years ago the Neogene Period began.

During this period, mammals and birds continued to evolve into roughly modern forms, while other groups of life remained relatively unchanged. Early hominids, the ancestors of humans, appeared in Africa near the end of the period. Some continental movement took place, the most significant event being the connection of North and South America at the Isthmus of Panama, late in the Pliocene. This cut off the warm ocean currents from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean, leaving only the Gulf Stream to transfer heat to the Arctic Ocean. The global climate cooled considerably over the course of the Neogene, culminating in a series of continental glaciations in the Quaternary Period that follows.


417 miles or 66 million years ago the Paleogene Period began.

The Paleogene is most notable for being the time during which mammals diversified from relatively small, simple forms into a large group of diverse animals in the wake of the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event that ended the preceding Cretaceous Period.

The end of the Paleocene (55.5/54.8 Mya) was marked by the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum, one of the most significant periods of global change during the Cenozoic, which upset oceanic and atmospheric circulation and led to the extinction of numerous deep-sea benthic foraminifera and on land, a major turnover in mammals.


915.4 miles or 145 million years ago the Cretaceous Period began.

The Cretaceous was a period with a relatively warm climate, resulting in high eustatic sea levels that created numerous shallow inland seas. These oceans and seas were populated with now-extinct marine reptiles, ammonites and rudists, while dinosaurs continued to dominate on land. During this time, new groups of mammals and birds, as well as flowering plants, appeared.

The Cretaceous (along with the Mesozoic) ended with the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, a large mass extinction in which many groups, including non- avian dinosaurs, pterosaurs and large marine reptiles died out.


1,271 miles or 201.3 million years ago the Jurassic Period began.

The start of the period was marked by the major Triassic–Jurassic extinction event. Two other extinction events occurred during the period: the Pliensbachian/Toarcian event in the Early Jurassic, and the Tithonian event at the end.

By the beginning of the Jurassic, the supercontinent Pangaea had begun rifting into two landmasses: Laurasia to the north, and Gondwana to the south. This created more coastlines and shifted the continental climate from dry to humid, and many of the arid deserts of the Triassic were replaced by lush rainforests.

On land, the fauna transitioned from the Triassic fauna, dominated by both dinosauromorph and crocodylomorph archosaurs, to one dominated by dinosaurs alone. The first birds also appeared during the Jurassic, having evolved from a branch of theropod dinosaurs. Other major events include the appearance of the earliest lizards, and the evolution of therian mammals, including primitive placentals. Crocodilians made the transition from a terrestrial to an aquatic mode of life. The oceans were inhabited by marine reptiles such as ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs, while pterosaurs were the dominant flying vertebrates.


1,590 miles or 251.9 million years ago the Triassic Period began.

The Triassic began in the wake of the Permian–Triassic extinction event, which left the earth's biosphere impoverished; it would take well into the middle of this period for life to recover its former diversity. Therapsids and archosaurs were the chief terrestrial vertebrates during this time. A specialized subgroup of archosaurs, called dinosaurs, first appeared in the Late Triassic but did not become dominant until the succeeding Jurassic Period.

The first true mammals, themselves a specialized subgroup of Therapsids, also evolved during this period, as well as the first flying vertebrates, the pterosaurs, who like the dinosaurs were a specialized subgroup of archosaurs. The vast supercontinent of Pangaea existed until the mid-Triassic, after which it began to gradually rift into two separate landmasses, Laurasia to the north and Gondwana to the south.

The global climate during the Triassic was mostly hot and dry, with deserts spanning much of Pangaea's interior. However, the climate shifted and became more humid as Pangaea began to drift apart. The end of the period was marked by yet another major mass extinction, the Triassic–Jurassic extinction event, that wiped out many groups and allowed dinosaurs to assume dominance in the Jurassic.


1,887 miles or 298.9 million years ago the Permian Period began.

The Permian witnessed the diversification of the early amniotes into the ancestral groups of the mammals, turtles, lepidosaurs, and archosaurs. The world at the time was dominated by two continents known as Pangaea and Siberia, surrounded by a global ocean called Panthalassa. The Carboniferous rainforest collapse left behind vast regions of desert within the continental interior.[6] Amniotes, who could better cope with these drier conditions, rose to dominance in place of their amphibian ancestors.

The Permian (along with the Paleozoic) ended with the Permian–Triassic extinction event, the largest mass extinction in Earth's history, in which nearly 90% of marine species and 70% of terrestrial species died out. It would take well into the Triassic for life to recover from this catastrophe. Recovery from the Permian–Triassic extinction event was protracted; on land, ecosystems took 30 million years to recover.


2,266 miles or 358.9 million years ago the Carboniferous Period began.

Terrestrial animal life was well established by the Carboniferous period. Amphibians were the dominant land vertebrates, of which one branch would eventually evolve into amniotes, the first solely terrestrial vertebrates.

Arthropods were also very common, and many (such as Meganeura) were much larger than those of today. Vast swaths of forest covered the land, which would eventually be laid down and become the coal beds characteristic of the Carboniferous stratigraphy evident today. The atmospheric content of oxygen also reached its highest levels in geological history during the period, 35% compared with 21% today, allowing terrestrial invertebrates to evolve to great size.

The later half of the period experienced glaciations, low sea level, and mountain building as the continents collided to form Pangaea. A major marine and terrestrial extinction event, the Carboniferous rainforest collapse, occurred at the end of the period, caused by climate change.


2,646 miles or 419.2 million years ago the Devonian Period began.

The first significant adaptive radiation of life on dry land occurred during the Devonian. Free-sporing vascular plants began to spread across dry land, forming extensive forests which covered the continents. By the middle of the Devonian, several groups of plants had evolved leaves and true roots, and by the end of the period the first seed-bearing plants appeared. Various terrestrial arthropods also became well-established.

Fish reached substantial diversity during this time, leading the Devonian to often be dubbed the "Age of Fish". The first ray-finned and lobe-finned bony fish appeared, while the placoderms began dominating almost every known aquatic environment. The ancestors of all four-limbed vertebrates (tetrapods) began adapting to walking on land, as their strong pectoral and pelvic fins gradually evolved into legs.[10] In the oceans, primitive sharks became more numerous than in the Silurian and Late Ordovician.

The first ammonites, species of molluscs, appeared. Trilobites, the mollusc- like brachiopods and the great coral reefs, were still common. The Late Devonian extinction which started about 375 million years ago[11] severely affected marine life, killing off all placodermi, and all trilobites, save for a few species of the order Proetida.

The palaeogeography was dominated by the supercontinent of Gondwana to the south, the continent of Siberia to the north, and the early formation of the small continent of Euramerica in between.


By 2,801 miles or 443.7 million years ago the Silurian period began. Glaciers melted, seas rose, the climate stablized. Coral reefs, fishes with jaws and freshwater fish. Life on land and fossils of vascular plants. Trilobites, mollusks in the sea. Fungi, arachnids, centipedes on land. Tropical and subtropical shallow seas.
445 million years ago the global temperature dropped about 5 degrees celsius and sea level dropped over 300 feet.

2,801 miles to 3,083 miles = Width of the United States = 443.7 million to 488.3 million years ago - Ordovician Period - cephalopods, Appalachian mountains formed - Gondwana super continents migrates to South Pole. A tropical world of many shallow seas. The Ordovician biodiversification event ending in a mass extinction event. 470 million years ago a space collision formed the asteriod belt and caused many meteors to hit earth. There was also a lot of volcanic activity during this period both this and meteor activity becoming less frequent near the end of the period.


3,409 miles = 540 million years - Cambrian life explosion.
(more oxygen in the atmosphere, maybe primal vision, burrowing, clear seas, trilobites)
3,655 miles = 579 million years - beginning of Ediacarin Period - almost inert fractal pseudo creatures.
4,000 miles = 635 million years - sponges - probably world's oldest animals. Before this the world's oceans probably contained a primordial microbial slime.
27,000 miles = 4.3 billion years - over once around the world - formation of Earth
88,000 miles or slightly over 1/3 the distance to the moon=14 billion years ago - Big Bang?

Also see:

Major Mass Extinction Events:

  1. End Ordovician - 444 million years ago, 86% of species became extinct, occurred about 96 million years after the Cambrian Explosion of life. These extinctions occurring over about a million years were probably caused by a short, severe ice age that lowered sea levels, possibly triggered by the uplift of the Appalachians. The newly exposed silicate rock washed into the ocean and caused an explosion of plant growth which sucked carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, chilling the planet. This extinction was preceded by the Ordovician Period, a tropical world of many shallow seas in which continental plate shifts formed the Gondwana super continent and caused the rise of the Appalachian mountains. During this period was the 40 million year long Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event during which widespread volcanic activity and frequent meteor impacts caused a warming climate. These decreased and allowed the cooling effect of the Appalachian uplift to dominate the climate. The resulting ice age in which the global temperature decreased by 5 degrees celsius dropped sea level by more than 300 feet and drained many of the shallow seas of the period.

  2. Late Devonian - 375 million years ago, 75% of species became extinct, occurred about 69 million years after the End Ordovician Extinction. The likely cause was the newly evolved land plants that emerged, covering the planet during the Devonian period. Their deep roots stirred up the earth releasing nutrients into the ocean. This might have triggered algal blooms which sucked the oxygen out of the water, suffocating many sea species.

  3. End Permian - 251 million years ago, 96% of species became extinct, occurred about 124 million years after the Late Devonian Extinction. This "great dying" was by far the worst extinction event ever seen; it nearly ended life on Earth. It was caused by a perfect storm of natural catastrophes. A cataclysmic eruption near Siberia blasted carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Methanogenic bacteria responded by belching out methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Global temperatures surged while oceans acidified and stagnated, belching poisonous hydrogen sulfide. Life was said to be set back 300 million years. In rocks for long after this period there are no coral reefs or coal deposits.

  4. End Triassic - 200 million years ago, 80% of species became extinct, occurred about 51 million years after the "great dying". No clear cause for this extinction has ever been found.

  5. End Cretaceous - 66 million years ago, 76% of species became extinct, occurred about 134 million years after the End Triassic Extinction. Volcanic activity and the resulting climate change had already placed life under stress when an asteroid impact provided the final blow and ended the dinosaurs' reign.

Geologic periods:

The Cryogenian is a geologic period that lasted from 720 to 635 million years ago. It forms the second geologic period of the Neoproterozoic Era, preceded by the Tonian Period and followed by the Ediacaran.

The Sturtian and Marinoan glaciations occurred during the Cryogenian period, which are the greatest ice ages known to have occurred on Earth. These events are the subject of much scientific controversy. The main debate contests whether these glaciations covered the entire planet (the so-called "Snowball Earth") or a band of open sea survived near the equator (termed "slushball Earth").

Fossils of testate amoeba (or Arcellinida) first appear during the Cryogenian period. During the Cryogenian period, the oldest known fossils of sponges (and therefore animals) make an appearance.


The Snowball Earth hypothesis proposes that Earth surface's became entirely or nearly entirely frozen at least once, sometime earlier than 650 Mya (million years ago). Proponents of the hypothesis argue that it best explains sedimentary deposits generally regarded as of glacial origin at tropical palaeolatitudes and other enigmatic features in the geological record. Opponents of the hypothesis contest the implications of the geological evidence for global glaciation and the geophysical feasibility of an ice- or slush-covered ocean and emphasize the difficulty of escaping an all-frozen condition. A number of unanswered questions remain, including whether the Earth was a full snowball, or a "slushball" with a thin equatorial band of open (or seasonally open) water.

The snowball-Earth episodes are proposed to have occurred before the sudden radiation of multicellular bioforms, known as the Cambrian explosion. The most recent snowball episode may have triggered the evolution of multicellularity. Another, much earlier and longer snowball episode, the Huronian glaciation, which would have occurred 2400 to 2100 Mya, may have been triggered by the first appearance of oxygen in the atmosphere, the "Great Oxygenation Event".


The Ediacaran Period, spans 94 million years from the end of the Cryogenian Period 635 million years ago (Mya), to the beginning of the Cambrian Period 541 Mya. The fossil record from the Ediacaran Period is sparse, as more easily fossilized hard-shelled animals had yet to evolve. The Ediacaran biota include the oldest definite multicellular organisms (with specialized tissues), the most common types of which resemble segmented worms, fronds, disks, or immobile bags.

Ediacara biota bear little resemblance to modern lifeforms, and their relationship even with the immediately following lifeforms of the Cambrian explosion is rather difficult to interpret. More than 100 genera have been described, and well known forms include Arkarua, Charnia, Dickinsonia, Ediacaria, Marywadea, Onega, Pteridinium, and Yorgia.

There is evidence that Earth's first mass extinction happened during this period when early animals changed the environment.


The Cambrian Period was the first geological period of the Paleozoic Era, and of the Phanerozoic Eon. The Cambrian lasted 55.6 million years from the end of the preceding Ediacaran Period 541 million years ago (mya) to the beginning of the Ordovician Period 485.4 mya

The Cambrian marked a profound change in life on Earth; prior to the Cambrian, the majority of living organisms on the whole were small, unicellular and simple; the Precambrian Charnia being exceptional. Complex, multicellular organisms gradually became more common in the millions of years immediately preceding the Cambrian, but it was not until this period that mineralized—hence readily fossilized—organisms became common. The rapid diversification of lifeforms in the Cambrian, known as the Cambrian explosion, produced the first representatives of all modern animal phyla. Phylogenetic analysis has supported the view that during the Cambrian radiation, metazoa (animals) evolved monophyletically from a single common ancestor: flagellated colonial protists similar to modern choanoflagellates.

Although diverse life forms prospered in the oceans, the land is thought to have been comparatively barren—with nothing more complex than a microbial soil crust and a few molluscs that emerged to browse on the microbial biofilm known to have been present. Most of the continents were probably dry and rocky due to a lack of vegetation. Shallow seas flanked the margins of several continents created during the breakup of the supercontinent Pannotia. The seas were relatively warm, and polar ice was absent for much of the period.


The Ordovician is a geologic period and system, the second of six periods of the Paleozoic Era. The Ordovician spans 41.2 million years from the end of the Cambrian Period 485.4 million years ago (Mya) to the start of the Silurian Period 443.8 Mya.

Life continued to flourish during the Ordovician as it did in the earlier Cambrian period, although the end of the period was marked by the Ordovician–Silurian extinction events. Invertebrates, namely molluscs and arthropods, dominated the oceans. The Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event considerably increased the diversity of life. Fish, the world's first true vertebrates, continued to evolve, and those with jaws may have first appeared late in the period. Life had yet to diversify on land. About 100 times as many meteorites struck the Earth per year during the Ordovician compared with today.


The Silurian is a geologic period and system spanning 24.6 million years from the end of the Ordovician Period, at 443.8 million years ago (Mya), to the beginning of the Devonian Period, 419.2 Mya. As with other geologic periods, the rock beds that define the period's start and end are well identified, but the exact dates are uncertain by several million years. The base of the Silurian is set at a series of major Ordovician–Silurian extinction events when 60% of marine species were wiped out.

A significant evolutionary milestone during the Silurian was the diversification of jawed fish and bony fish. Multi-cellular life also began to appear on land in the form of small, bryophyte-like and vascular plants that grew beside lakes, streams, and coastlines, and terrestrial arthropods are also first found on land during the Silurian. However, terrestrial life would not greatly diversify and affect the landscape until the Devonian.


The Devonian is a geologic period and system of the Paleozoic, spanning 60 million years from the end of the Silurian, 419.2 million years ago (Mya), to the beginning of the Carboniferous, 358.9 Mya. It is named after Devon, England, where rocks from this period were first studied.

The first significant adaptive radiation of life on dry land occurred during the Devonian. Free-sporing vascular plants began to spread across dry land, forming extensive forests which covered the continents. By the middle of the Devonian, several groups of plants had evolved leaves and true roots, and by the end of the period the first seed-bearing plants appeared. Various terrestrial arthropods also became well-established.

Fish reached substantial diversity during this time, leading the Devonian to often be dubbed the "Age of Fish". The first ray-finned and lobe-finned bony fish appeared, while the placoderms began dominating almost every known aquatic environment. The ancestors of all four-limbed vertebrates (tetrapods) began adapting to walking on land, as their strong pectoral and pelvic fins gradually evolved into legs. In the oceans, primitive sharks became more numerous than in the Silurian and Late Ordovician.

The first ammonites, species of molluscs, appeared. Trilobites, the mollusc- like brachiopods and the great coral reefs, were still common. The Late Devonian extinction which started about 375 million years ago severely affected marine life, killing off all placodermi, and all trilobites, save for a few species of the order Proetida.

The palaeogeography was dominated by the supercontinent of Gondwana to the south, the continent of Siberia to the north, and the early formation of the small continent of Euramerica in between.


The Carboniferous is a geologic period and system that spans 60 million years from the end of the Devonian Period 358.9 million years ago (Mya), to the beginning of the Permian Period, 298.9 Mya. The name Carboniferous means "coal-bearing" and derives from the Latin words carb? ("coal") and fer? ("I bear, I carry"), and was coined by geologists William Conybeare and William Phillips in 1822.

Based on a study of the British rock succession, it was the first of the modern 'system' names to be employed, and reflects the fact that many coal beds were formed globally during that time. The Carboniferous is often treated in North America as two geological periods, the earlier Mississippian and the later Pennsylvanian. Terrestrial animal life was well established by the Carboniferous period. Amphibians were the dominant land vertebrates, of which one branch would eventually evolve into amniotes, the first solely terrestrial vertebrates.

Arthropods were also very common, and many (such as Meganeura) were much larger than those of today. Vast swaths of forest covered the land, which would eventually be laid down and become the coal beds characteristic of the Carboniferous stratigraphy evident today. The atmospheric content of oxygen also reached its highest levels in geological history during the period, 35% compared with 21% today, allowing terrestrial invertebrates to evolve to great size.

The later half of the period experienced glaciations, low sea level, and mountain building as the continents collided to form Pangaea. A major marine and terrestrial extinction event, the Carboniferous rainforest collapse, occurred at the end of the period, caused by climate change


The Permian is a geologic period and system which spans 47 million years from the end of the Carboniferous Period 298.9 million years ago (Mya), to the beginning of the Triassic period 251.902 Mya. It is the last period of the Paleozoic era; the following Triassic period belongs to the Mesozoic era. The concept of the Permian was introduced in 1841 by geologist Sir Roderick Murchison, who named it after the city of Perm.

The Permian witnessed the diversification of the early amniotes into the ancestral groups of the mammals, turtles, lepidosaurs, and archosaurs. The world at the time was dominated by two continents known as Pangaea and Siberia, surrounded by a global ocean called Panthalassa. The Carboniferous rainforest collapse left behind vast regions of desert within the continental interior. Amniotes, who could better cope with these drier conditions, rose to dominance in place of their amphibian ancestors.

The Permian (along with the Paleozoic) ended with the Permian–Triassic extinction event, the largest mass extinction in Earth's history, in which nearly 90% of marine species and 70% of terrestrial species died out. It would take well into the Triassic for life to recover from this catastrophe. Recovery from the Permian–Triassic extinction event was protracted; on land, ecosystems took 30 million years to recover


The Triassic is a geologic period and system which spans 50.6 million years from the end of the Permian Period 251.9 million years ago (Mya), to the beginning of the Jurassic Period 201.3 Mya. The Triassic is the first period of the Mesozoic Era. Both the start and end of the period are marked by major extinction events.

The Triassic began in the wake of the Permian–Triassic extinction event, which left the Earth's biosphere impoverished; it would take well into the middle of this period for life to recover its former diversity. Therapsids and archosaurs were the chief terrestrial vertebrates during this time. A specialized subgroup of archosaurs, called dinosaurs, first appeared in the Late Triassic but did not become dominant until the succeeding Jurassic Period.

The first true mammals, themselves a specialized subgroup of therapsids, also evolved during this period, as well as the first flying vertebrates, the pterosaurs, who, like the dinosaurs, were a specialized subgroup of archosaurs. The vast supercontinent of Pangaea existed until the mid-Triassic, after which it began to gradually rift into two separate landmasses, Laurasia to the north and Gondwana to the south.

The global climate during the Triassic was mostly hot and dry, with deserts spanning much of Pangaea's interior. However, the climate shifted and became more humid as Pangaea began to drift apart. The end of the period was marked by yet another major mass extinction, the Triassic–Jurassic extinction event, that wiped out many groups and allowed dinosaurs to assume dominance in the Jurassic.


The Jurassic was a geologic period and system that spanned 56 million years from the end of the Triassic Period 201.3 million years ago (Mya) to the beginning of the Cretaceous Period 145 Mya. The Jurassic constitutes the middle period of the Mesozoic Era, also known as the Age of Reptiles. The start of the period was marked by the major Triassic–Jurassic extinction event. Two other extinction events occurred during the period: the Pliensbachian/Toarcian event in the Early Jurassic, and the Tithonian event at the end; however, neither event ranks among the "Big Five" mass extinctions.

The Jurassic period is divided into three epochs: Early, Middle, and Late. Similarly, in stratigraphy, the Jurassic is divided into the Lower Jurassic, Middle Jurassic, and Upper Jurassic series of rock formations.

The Jurassic is named after the Jura Mountains within the European Alps, where limestone strata from the period were first identified. By the beginning of the Jurassic, the supercontinent Pangaea had begun rifting into two landmasses: Laurasia to the north, and Gondwana to the south. This created more coastlines and shifted the continental climate from dry to humid, and many of the arid deserts of the Triassic were replaced by lush rainforests.

On land, the fauna transitioned from the Triassic fauna, dominated by both dinosauromorph and crocodylomorph archosaurs, to one dominated by dinosaurs alone. The first birds also appeared during the Jurassic, having evolved from a branch of theropod dinosaurs. Other major events include the appearance of the earliest lizards, and the evolution of therian mammals, including primitive placentals. Crocodilians made the transition from a terrestrial to an aquatic mode of life. The oceans were inhabited by marine reptiles such as ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs, while pterosaurs were the dominant flying vertebrates.


The Cretaceous is a geologic period and system that spans 79 million years from the end of the Jurassic Period 145 million years ago (mya) to the beginning of the Paleogene Period 66 mya. It is the last period of the Mesozoic Era, and the longest period of the Phanerozoic Eon. The Cretaceous Period is usually abbreviated K, for its German translation Kreide (chalk).

The Cretaceous was a period with a relatively warm climate, resulting in high eustatic sea levels that created numerous shallow inland seas. These oceans and seas were populated with now-extinct marine reptiles, ammonites and rudists, while dinosaurs continued to dominate on land. During this time, new groups of mammals and birds, as well as flowering plants, appeared.

The Cretaceous (along with the Mesozoic) ended with the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, a large mass extinction in which many groups, including non- avian dinosaurs, pterosaurs and large marine reptiles died out. The end of the Cretaceous is defined by the abrupt Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary (K–Pg boundary), a geologic signature associated with the mass extinction which lies between the Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras.


The Paleogene is a geologic period and system that spans 43 million years from the end of the Cretaceous Period 66 million years ago (Mya) to the beginning of the Neogene Period 23.03 Mya. It is the beginning of the Cenozoic Era of the present Phanerozoic Eon. The Paleogene is most notable for being the time during which mammals diversified from relatively small, simple forms into a large group of diverse animals in the wake of the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event that ended the preceding Cretaceous Period.

This period consists of the Paleocene, Eocene, and Oligocene epochs. The end of the Paleocene (55.5/54.8 Mya) was marked by the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum, one of the most significant periods of global change during the Cenozoic, which upset oceanic and atmospheric circulation and led to the extinction of numerous deep-sea benthic foraminifera and on land, a major turnover in mammals. The terms 'Paleogene System' (formal) and 'lower Tertiary System' (informal) are applied to the rocks deposited during the 'Paleogene Period'. The somewhat confusing terminology seems to be due to attempts to deal with the comparatively fine subdivisions of time possible in the relatively recent geologic past, for which more details are preserved. By dividing the Tertiary Period into two periods instead of directly into five epochs, the periods are more closely comparable to the duration of 'periods' of the preceding Mesozoic and Paleozoic Eras.


The Neogene is a geologic period and system that spans 20.45 million years from the end of the Paleogene Period 23.03 million years ago (Mya) to the beginning of the present Quaternary Period 2.58 Mya. The Neogene is sub- divided into two epochs, the earlier Miocene and the later Pliocene. Some geologists assert that the Neogene cannot be clearly delineated from the modern geological period, the Quaternary.

During this period, mammals and birds continued to evolve into roughly modern forms, while other groups of life remained relatively unchanged. Early hominids, the ancestors of humans, appeared in Africa near the end of the period. Some continental movement took place, the most significant event being the connection of North and South America at the Isthmus of Panama, late in the Pliocene. This cut off the warm ocean currents from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean, leaving only the Gulf Stream to transfer heat to the Arctic Ocean. The global climate cooled considerably over the course of the Neogene, culminating in a series of continental glaciations in the Quaternary Period that follows.


Quaternary is the current and most recent of the three periods of the Cenozoic Era in the geologic time scale of the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS). It follows the Neogene Period and spans from 2.588 ± 0.005 million years ago to the present. The Quaternary Period is divided into two epochs: the Pleistocene (2.588 million years ago to 11.7 thousand years ago) and the Holocene (11.7 thousand years ago to today). The informal term "Late Quaternary" refers to the past 0.5–1.0 million years.

The Quaternary Period is typically defined by the cyclic growth and decay of continental ice sheets associated with Milankovitch cycles and the associated climate and environmental changes that occurred.

Supercontinents:

Rodinia is a Neoproterozoic supercontinent that was assembled 1.3–0.9 billion years ago and broke up 750–633 million years ago. Valentine & Moores 1970 were probably the first to recognise a Precambrian supercontinent, which they named 'Pangaea I'. It was renamed 'Rodinia' by McMenamin & McMenamin 1990 who also were the first to produce a reconstruction and propose a temporal framework for the supercontinent.

Rodinia broke up in the Neoproterozoic with its continental fragments reassembled to form Pannotia 633–573 million years ago. In contrast with Pannotia, little is known yet about the exact configuration and geodynamic history of Rodinia. Paleomagnetic evidence provides some clues to the paleolatitude of individual pieces of the Earth's crust, but not to their longitude, which geologists have pieced together by comparing similar geologic features, often now widely dispersed.

The extreme cooling of the global climate around 717–635 million years ago (the so-called Snowball Earth of the Cryogenian Period) and the rapid evolution of primitive life during the subsequent Ediacaran and Cambrian periods are thought to have been triggered by the breaking up of Rodinia or to a slowing down of tectonic processes.

Piper 1976 was probably the first to propose a Proterozoic supercontinent preceding Pangaea, today known as Rodinia. At that time he simply referred to it as "the Proterozoic super-continent", but much later he named this "symmetrical crescent-shaped analogue of Pangaea" 'Palaeopangaea' and still insists there is neither a need nor any evidences for Rodinia or its daughter supercontinent Pannotia or a series of other proposed supercontinents since Archaean times.

Another term for the supercontinent that is thought to have existed at the end of Neoproterozoic time is "Greater Gondwanaland", suggested by Stern 1994. This term recognizes that the supercontinent of Gondwana, which formed at the end of the Neoproterozoic, was once part of the much larger end-Neoproterozoic supercontinent.

Pannotia was named by Powell 1995, based on the term "Pannotios" originally proposed by Stump 1987 for "the cycle of tectonic activity common to the Gondwana continents that resulted in the formation of the supercontinent." Young 1995 proposed renaming the older Proterozoic supercontinent (now known as Rodinia) "Kanatia", the St. Lawrence Iroquoian word from which the name 'Canada' is derived, while keeping the name Rodinia for the latter Neoproterozoic supercontinent (now known as Pannotia). Powell, however, objected to this renaming and instead proposed Stump's term for the latter supercontinent.


Gondwana was a supercontinent that existed from the Neoproterozoic (about 550 million years ago) until the Carboniferous (about 320 million years ago). It was formed by the accretion of several cratons. Eventually, Gondwana became the largest piece of continental crust of the Paleozoic Era, covering an area of about 100,000,000 km2 (39,000,000 sq mi). During the Carboniferous, it merged with Euramerica to form a larger supercontinent called Pangaea. Gondwana (and Pangaea) gradually broke up during the Mesozoic Era. The remnants of Gondwana make up about two-thirds of today's continental area.

The Biosphere:

See these Wikipedia Articles:
Earth's biosphere

Age

The earliest evidence for life on Earth includes biogenic graphite found in 3.7 billion-year-old metasedimentary rocks from Western Greenland and microbial mat fossils found in 3.48 billion-year-old sandstone from Western Australia. More recently, in 2015, "remains of biotic life" were found in 4.1 billion-year-old rocks in Western Australia. In 2017, putative fossilized microorganisms (or microfossils) were announced to have been discovered in hydrothermal vent precipitates in the Nuvvuagittuq Belt of Quebec, Canada that were as old as 4.28 billion years, the oldest record of life on earth, suggesting "an almost instantaneous emergence of life" after ocean formation 4.4 billion years ago, and not long after the formation of the Earth 4.54 billion years ago. According to biologist Stephen Blair Hedges, "If life arose relatively quickly on Earth ... then it could be common in the universe."

Extent

Every part of the planet, from the polar ice caps to the equator, features life of some kind. Recent advances in microbiology have demonstrated that microbes live deep beneath the Earth's terrestrial surface, and that the total mass of microbial life in so-called "uninhabitable zones" may, in biomass, exceed all animal and plant life on the surface. The actual thickness of the biosphere on earth is difficult to measure. Birds typically fly at altitudes as high as 1,800 m (5,900 ft; 1.1 mi) and fish live as much as 8,372 m (27,467 ft; 5.202 mi) underwater in the Puerto Rico Trench.

There are more extreme examples for life on the planet: Rüppell's vulture has been found at altitudes of 11,300 m (37,100 ft; 7.0 mi); bar-headed geese migrate at altitudes of at least 8,300 m (27,200 ft; 5.2 mi); yaks live at elevations as high as 5,400 m (17,700 ft; 3.4 mi) above sea level; mountain goats live up to 3,050 m (10,010 ft; 1.90 mi). Herbivorous animals at these elevations depend on lichens, grasses, and herbs.

Life forms live in every part of the Earth's biosphere, including soil, hot springs, inside rocks at least 19 km (12 mi) deep underground, the deepest parts of the ocean, and at least 64 km (40 mi) high in the atmosphere. Microorganisms, under certain test conditions, have been observed to survive the vacuum of outer space. The total amount of soil and subsurface bacterial carbon is estimated as 5 × 1017 g, or the "weight of the United Kingdom". The mass of prokaryote microorganisms—which includes bacteria and archaea, but not the nucleated eukaryote microorganisms—may be as much as 0.8 trillion tons of carbon (of the total biosphere mass, estimated at between 1 and 4 trillion tons). Barophilic marine microbes have been found at more than a depth of 10,000 m (33,000 ft; 6.2 mi) in the Mariana Trench, the deepest spot in the Earth's oceans. In fact, single-celled life forms have been found in the deepest part of the Mariana Trench, by the Challenger Deep, at depths of 11,034 m (36,201 ft; 6.856 mi). Other researchers reported related studies that microorganisms thrive inside rocks up to 580 m (1,900 ft; 0.36 mi) below the sea floor under 2,590 m (8,500 ft; 1.61 mi) of ocean off the coast of the northwestern United States, as well as 2,400 m (7,900 ft; 1.5 mi) beneath the seabed off Japan. Culturable thermophilic microbes have been extracted from cores drilled more than 5,000 m (16,000 ft; 3.1 mi) into the Earth's crust in Sweden, from rocks between 65–75 °C (149–167 °F). Temperature increases with increasing depth into the Earth's crust. The rate at which the temperature increases depends on many factors, including type of crust (continental vs. oceanic), rock type, geographic location, etc. The greatest known temperature at which microbial life can exist is 122 °C (252 °F) (Methanopyrus kandleri Strain 116), and it is likely that the limit of life in the "deep biosphere" is defined by temperature rather than absolute depth. On 20 August 2014, scientists confirmed the existence of microorganisms living 800 m (2,600 ft; 0.50 mi) below the ice of Antarctica. According to one researcher, "You can find microbes everywhere — they're extremely adaptable to conditions, and survive wherever they are."

Our biosphere is divided into a number of biomes, inhabited by fairly similar flora and fauna. On land, biomes are separated primarily by latitude. Terrestrial biomes lying within the Arctic and Antarctic Circles are relatively barren of plant and animal life, while most of the more populous biomes lie near the equator.