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Geologic Eras

The Palaeozoic - era of the trilobite empires !

Trilobites, as we know them from their fossilized remains, existed in the Palaeozoic only and became extinct at the end of the Permian, some 250 million years before our time. The reasons for their evolutionary defeat are not entirely clear. There are strong indications (some scientists talk of evidence) that early trilobites or their immediate ancestors may have existed in the late Precambrian already, but we have not yet found fossilized remains of these animals. This may be due to the fact that early trilobites may have had a soft, non-calcified exoskeleton that hardly stood a chance of getting preserved. More information can be found here.

The Palaeozoic, like all other geologic eras, is sub-divided into periods and epochs. Here is a simplified breakdown of the geologic eras as is currently accepted. Please bear in mind that this information is subject to constant change, as improving knowledge leads to corrective amendments of this chart pretty much every year. Time spans may shrink or grow, start dates may climb and fall on our time ladder, the treacherous steps of which being but slippery marks. The datings shown in our chart are, to a large extent, in accordance with the findings of the International Subcommission on Global Stratigraphy as published in 2004. This document can be downloaded in our Document-Section as a PDF-file.

The Geologic Eras
Supereon / Eon / Era
Period
Epoch
Start, years ago

Cenozoic

Mastodon
Mastodon longirostris
Tertiary / Pliocene

Quaternary
Holocene (Alluvium)
Pleistocene (Dilluvium)

1,8 million
Tertiary
Pliocene
Miocene
Oligocene
Eocene
Paleocene




66 million

Mesozoic

Ammonite Perisphinctes
Ammonite
Perisphinctes.
Upper Jurassic (Malm)

Cretaceous
Upper Cretaceous
Lower Cretaceous

146 million
Jurassic
Upper Jurassic
Middle Jurassic
Lower Jurassic


200 million
Triassic
Upper Triassic
Middle Triassic
Lower Triassic


251 million

Palaeozoic

Trilobite Odontochile
Odontochile
Middle Devonian

Trilobite Cambropallas
Cambropallas
Lower Cambrian

Permian
Lopingian
Guadalupian
Cisuralian

299 million
Carboniferous
Pennsylvanian
Mississippian

359 million
Devonian
Upper Devonian
Middle Devonian
Lower Devonian


416 million
Silurian
Pridoli
Ludlow
Wenlock
Llandovery

444 million
Ordovician
Upper Ordovician
Middle Ordovician
Lower Ordovician


488 million
Cambrian
Furongian
Middle Cambrian
Lower Cambrian


542 million

[Precambrian] - [Proterozoic]
Neoproterozoic
Mesoproterozoic
Paleoproterozoic

Eukaryonts
Eukarionts Chuaria sp.
Cryogenian

Ediacaran
Cryogenian
Tonian
undefined
1000 million
Stenian
Ectasian
Calymmian
undefined
1600 million
Statherian
Orosirian
Rhyacian
Siderian
undefined
2500 million

[Precambrian]
Archean
Hadean

undefined
undefined
> 3600 million


Hereafter you can find a more detailed breakdown of the Palaeozoic. This chart shows the international chronostratigraphic units of the Palaeozoic, as approved by the ICS and ratified by the IUGS (2004).

International Stratigraphic Chart
International Commission on Stratigraphy
Period
Epoch
Stage
Start, years ago

Permian
Dimotopyge sp.
Kathwaia sp.

Lopingian
Changhsingian
254 million
Wuchiapingian
260 million
Guadalupian
Capitanian
266 million
Wordian
268 million
Roadian
271 million
Cisuralian
Kungurian
276 million
Artinskian
284 million
Sakmarian
295 million
Asselian
299 million

Carboniferous
Cummingella belisama
Cummingella belisama

Pennsylvanian
Upper
Gzhelian
304 million
Kasimovian
307 million
Middle
Moscovian
312 million
Lower
Bashkirian
318 million
Mississippian
Upper
Serpukhovian
326 million
Middle
Visean
345 million
Lower
Tournaisian
359 million

Devonian
Drotops megalomanicus
Drotops megalomanicus

Upper
Famennian
375 million
Frasnian
385 million
Middle
Givetian
392 million
Eifelian
398 million
Lower
Emsian
407 million
Pragian
411 million
Lochkovian
416 million

Silurian
Dalmanites limulurus
Dalmanites limulurus

Pridoli
undefined
419 million
Ludlow
Ludfordian
421 million
Gorstian
423 million
Wenlock
Homerian
426 million
Sheinwoodian
428 million
Llandovery
Telychian
436 million
Aeronian
439 million
Rhuddanian
444 million

Ordovician
Isotelus
Isotelus "mafritzae"

Upper
Himantian
446 million
undefined
456 million
undefined
461 million
Middle
Darriwilian
468 million
undefined
472 million
Lower
undefined
479 million
Tremadocian
488 million

Cambrian
Cedaria minor
Cedaria minor

Furongian
undefined
undefined
Paibian
501 million
Middle
undefined
undefined
undefined
513 million
Lower
undefined
undefined
undefined
542 million

Sometimes you may come across different descriptions for the very same subdivisions in stratigraphic charts. For example, some charts list the Middle Devonian as a "Series" while others list it as an "Epoch". The reason for that can be found in two different approaches used: One is based on chronostratigraphy, the other on geochronology. While the first refers to subdivisions based on the age of rock strata in relation to time, the latter determines the absolute age of rocks by various methods like radiometry and the like. To quote from Wikipedia:

"It is important not to confuse geochronologic and chronostratigraphic units. Geochronological units are periods of time, thus it is correct to say that Tyrannosaurus rex lived during the the Late Cretaceous Epoch. Chronostratigraphic units are geological material, so it is also correct to say that fossils of the genus Tyrannosaurus have been found in the Upper Cretaceous Series. In the same way, it is entirely possible to go and visit an Upper Cretaceous Series deposit - such as the Egyptian mangrove deposit where the Tyrannosaurus fossils were found - but it is naturally impossible to visit the Late Cretaceous Epoch as that is a period of time."

Equivalents of chronostratigraphic and geochronologic units
Chronostratigraphic division   Geochronologic division
Eonothem (Phanerozoic, Proterozoic, Archean)
< equates >
Eon - Eonothem (Phanerozoic, Proterozoic, Archean)
Erathem (Cenozoic, Mesozoic, Paleozoic)
< equates >
Era - Erathem (Cenozoic, Mesozoic, Paleozoic)
System (Ordovician)
< equates >
Period - System (Ordovician)
Series (Middle)
< equates >
Epoch - Series (Middle)
Stage (Caradocian)
< equates >
Age - Stage (Caradocian)

© Images of Perisphinctes, Odontochile and Cambropallas on this page courtesy of PaleoDirect, exclusive provider of trilobite images in support of this web site.

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Last Update : 01/11/2011 1:09 PM