Timeline of natural history

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Visual representation of the history of life on Earth as a spiral

This timeline of natural history summarizes significant cosmological, geological and biological events from the formation of the Universe to the rise of modern humans. Times are listed in millions of years, or megaanni (Ma).

Formation of the Universe[edit]

The earliest Solar System[edit]

In the earliest solar system history, the Sun, the planetesimals and the jovian planets were formed. The inner solar system aggregated more slowly than the outer, so the terrestrial planets were not yet formed, including Earth and Moon.

Hadean Eon[edit]

Main article: Hadean

Archean Eon[edit]

Main article: Archean

Eoarchean Era[edit]

Main article: Eoarchean

Paleoarchean Era[edit]

Mesoarchean Era[edit]

Neoarchean Era[edit]

Proterozoic Eon[edit]

Main article: Proterozoic

Paleoproterozoic Era[edit]

Main article: Paleoproterozoic

Siderian Period[edit]

Rhyacian Period[edit]

Orosirian Period[edit]

Statherian Period[edit]

Mesoproterozoic Era[edit]

Main article: Mesoproterozoic

Calymmian Period[edit]

Ectasian Period[edit]

Stenian Period[edit]

Neoproterozoic Era[edit]

Main article: Neoproterozoic

Tonian Period[edit]

Cryogenian Period[edit]

Ediacaran Period[edit]

Phanerozoic Eon[edit]

Main article: Phanerozoic

Paleozoic Era[edit]

Main article: Paleozoic

Cambrian Period[edit]

Ordovician Period[edit]

Silurian Period[edit]

  • 443.4 ± 1.5 Ma: Beginning of the Silurian and the end of the Ordovician Period.
  • 420 Ma: First creature took a breath of air. First ray-finned fish and land scorpions.
  • 410 Ma: First toothed fish and nautiloids.

Devonian Period[edit]

Carboniferous Period[edit]

Permian Period[edit]

Mesozoic Era[edit]

Main article: Mesozoic

Triassic Period[edit]

Jurassic Period[edit]

Cretaceous Period[edit]

Cenozoic Era[edit]

Main article: Cenozoic

Paleogene Period[edit]

Neogene Period[edit]

Quaternary Period[edit]

For later events, see Timeline of human prehistory.

Etymology of period names[edit]

Period Started Root word Meaning Reason for name
Siderian 2500 Ma Greek sidēros iron ref. the banded iron formations
Rhyacian 2300 Ma Gk. rhyax lava flow much lava flowed
Orosirian 2050 Ma Gk. oroseira mountain range much orogeny in this period's latter half
Statherian 1800 Ma Gk. statheros steady continents became stable cratons
Calymmian 1600 Ma Gk. calymma cover platform covers developed or expanded
Ectasian 1400 Ma Gk. ectasis stretch platform covers expanded
Stenian 1200 Ma Gk. stenos narrow much orogeny, which survives as narrow metamorphic belts
Tonian 1000 Ma Gk. tonos stretch The continental crust stretched as Rodinia broke up
Cryogenian 850 Ma Gk. cryogenicos cold-making In this period all the Earth froze over
Ediacaran 635Ma Ediacara Hills place in Australia where the Ediacaran biota fossils were found
Cambrian 541Ma Latin Cambria Wales ref. to the place in Great Britain where Cambrian rocks are best exposed
Ordovician 485.4 Ma Celtic Ordovices Tribe in north Wales, where the rocks were first identified
Silurian 443.4 Ma Ctc. Silures Tribe in south Wales, where the rocks were first identified
Devonian 419.2Ma Devon County in England in which rocks from this period were first identified
Carboniferous 358.9 Ma Lt. carbo coal Global coal beds were laid in this period
Permian 298.9Ma Perm Krai Region in Russia where rocks from this period were first identified
Triassic 252.17 Ma Lt. trias triad In Germany this period forms three distinct layers
Jurassic 201.3Ma Jura Mountains Mountain range in the Alps in which rocks from this period were first identified
Cretaceous 145Ma Lt. creta chalk More chalk formed in this period than any other
Paleogene 66Ma Gk. palaiogenos "ancient born"
Neogene 23.03Ma Gk. neogenos "new born"
Quaternary 2.58 Ma Lt. quaternarius "fourth" This was initially deemed the "fourth" period after the now-obsolete "primary", "secondary" and "tertiary" periods.


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  4. ^ Taylor, G. Jeffrey (2006), "Wandering Gas Giants and Lunar Bombardment: Outward migration of Saturn might have triggered a dramatic increase in the bombardment rate on the Moon 3.9 billion years ago, an idea testable with lunar samples" [1]
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  11. ^ Brocks et al. (1999), "Archaean molecular fossils and the early rise of eukaryotes", (Science 285)
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  16. ^ Butterfield, NJ. (2000). "Bangiomorpha pubescens n. gen., n. sp.: implications for the evolution of sex, multicellularity and the Mesoproterozoic/Neoproterozoic radiation of eukaryotes". Paleobiology 26 (3): 386–404. doi:10.1666/0094-8373(2000)026<0386:BPNGNS>2.0.CO;2. 
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See also[edit]