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Key People:George Gaylord SimpsonGideon Algernon Mantell...(Show more)Related Topics:DinosaurTriassic PeriodCretaceous PeriodJurassic Periodfossil...(Show more)

Mesozoic Era, second of earth three significant geologic periods of Phanerozoic time. Its surname is derived from the Greek term for “middle life.” The Mesozoic Era started 252.2 million year ago, complying with the conclusion that the Paleozoic Era, and also ended 66 million year ago, at the dawn the the Cenozoic Era. (See the geologic time scale.) The significant divisions of the Mesozoic Era are, from oldest to youngest, the Triassic Period, the Jurassic Period, and the Cretaceous Period. The ancestors of major plant and animal groups that exist today very first appeared during the Mesozoic, yet this era is ideal known as the time of the dinosaurs.

Earth’s climate throughout the Mesozoic Era was usually warm, and also there to be less difference in temperature in between equatorial and polar latitudes than there is today. The Mesozoic to be a time that geologic and also biological transition. During this era the continents started to move right into their present-day configurations. A distinctive modernization that life-forms occurred, partly since of the demise of countless earlier species of organisms. Three of the five largest fixed extinctions in Earth history are connected with the Mesozoic: a fixed extinction arisen at the boundary in between the Mesozoic and the preceding Paleozoic; another occurred within the Mesozoic at the end of the Triassic Period; and also a 3rd occurred in ~ the boundary between the Mesozoic and also subsequent Cenozoic, leading to the death of the dinosaurs.


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Paleogeography and paleoceanography of late Jurassic time. Contemporary coastlines and also tectonic boundaries of continent are displayed in the inset at the lower right.
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Distribution that landmasses, mountainous regions, shallow seas, and also deep ocean containers during so late Cretaceous time. Included in the paleogeographic restoration are cold and warm s currents. The present-day coastlines and tectonic limits of the configured continent are presented in the inset in ~ the lower right.

As the continent rifted and ruptured, special sequences of naval sediments gathered in large linear troughs along their margins. Ocean basin deposits the Jurassic period are uncovered today in the circum-Pacific region, follow me the shores of east North America and also the Gulf that Mexico, and on the margins of Eurasia and also Gondwana (that is, follow me the northern and also southern boundaries of the Tethys Sea).


Major mountain structure (orogeny) started on the western margins the both North and South America and between the separating pieces of Gondwana. Because that example, the northwesterly activity of north America resulted in a collision the the west edge the the phibìc American continent plate v a complex of island arcs during the late Jurassic. So-called exotic terranes, geologic pieces that different markedly in stratigraphy, paleomagnetism, and also paleontology native adjoining continent crust, to be accreted come the margin that the north American plate. As thrusting developed in an eastward direction, large granitic batholiths developed in what is currently the Sierra Nevada variety along the California-Nevada border. Other noteworthy episodes that mountain building during the Mesozoic incorporate the Sevier and Laramide orogenies, i beg your pardon took location in western north America during Cretaceous time. This events developed the Rocky Mountains.

Mesozoic rocks room widely distributed, showing up in various parts of the world. A big percentage of this rocks are sedimentary. At miscellaneous times throughout the Mesozoic, shallow seas attacked continental interiors and then drained away. During Middle Triassic time, a maritime incursion—the Muschelkalk Sea—covered the continental internal of Europe. Seas again transgressed top top the continents between the Early and Late Jurassic and in the early on Cretaceous, leaving considerable beds of sandstone, ironstone, clays, and also limestone (see Solnhofen Limestone). A last significant transgression of naval waters flooded big segments of all the continents later on in the Cretaceous. These spicy rises in sea level and also resultant global flooding room thought to have had two causes. The an initial was warm worldwide temperatures, which prevented large volumes of water from being sequestered on soil in the type of ice cream sheets. The second was associated to increased seafloor spreading; the attendant enlargement of ocean ridges displaced enormous amounts of ocean water ~ above the landmasses. Naval transgression was so extensive that in phibìc America, because that example, a seaway spread out all the means from the Arctic to the Gulf that Mexico in the Cretaceous Period. Prevalent deposition the chalk, clay, black shales, and also marl occurred. In components of phibìc America, lake and also river sediments well-off in dinosaur fossils to be deposited alongside maritime sediments. (See Morrison Formation.)

A substantial amount that igneous rock likewise formed during the Mesozoic. The orogenies of the Jurassic and also Cretaceous periods associated volcanism and also plutonic intrusion such as occurred during the emplacement the granites and andesites in the Andes of south America throughout the late Jurassic. 2 of the largest volcanic events in Earth’s history occurred during the Mesozoic. The main Atlantic Magmatic Province, a huge volume the basalt, was produced at the end of the Triassic throughout the early rifting the Pangea. The surface area the this igneous province originally covered much more than 7 million square kilometres (about 3 million square miles), and also its rocks deserve to be uncovered today from Brazil to France. In spite of such a enormous volume of basaltic material extruded, volcanic activity was probably short-lived, spanning only a few million years. In ~ the finish of the Cretaceous, one more igneous province, the flood basalts that the Deccan Traps, created on what is now the Indian subcontinent. Some scientists have said that both that these large igneous events may have actually injected significant amounts that carbon dioxide and also aerosols right into the atmosphere, triggering a readjust in worldwide climate. The timing of this volcanic events shows up to overlap the Triassic-Jurassic and also Cretaceous-Tertiary, or Cretaceous-Paleogene, fixed extinctions, and also they may have actually played a duty in them.

Mesozoic life

The fauna and flora that the Mesozoic were distinctly different from those of the Paleozoic, the largest mass die out in Earth history having emerged at the boundary of the 2 eras, as soon as some 90 percent that all maritime invertebrate types and 70 percent of terrestrial vertebrate genera disappeared. At the begin of the Mesozoic, the continuing to be biota started a an extensive recovery that diversity and total population numbers, and ecosystems began to resemble those of modern days. Vertebrates, much less severely affected by the extinction than invertebrates, diversified increasingly throughout the Triassic. The Triassic terrestrial setting was conquered by the therapsids, sometimes referred to together “mammal-like reptiles,” and also the thecodonts, ancestors that dinosaurs and also crocodiles, both the which showed up during the late Triassic. The first true mammals, which were small, shrewlike omnivores, likewise appeared in the late Triassic, together did the lizards, turtles, and flying pterosaurs. In the oceans, mollusks—including ammonites, bivalves, and also gastropods—became a dominant group. Fishes, sharks, and marine reptiles such together plesiosaurs, nothosaurs, and ichthyosaurs additionally swam the Mesozoic seas.

Another significant extinction occasion struck at the nearby of the Triassic, one the wiped the end as lot as 20 percent of marine families and also many terrestrial vertebrates, including therapsids. The reason of this fixed extinction is no yet known however may be regarded climatic and also oceanographic changes. In all, 35 percent the the existing animal groups endured extinction.

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In the oceans the ammonites and also brachiopods recovered indigenous the so late Triassic crisis, prospering in the heat continental seas. Ammonites quickly became really common invertebrates in the naval realm and are now vital index fossils for global correlation the Jurassic rock strata. Plenty of other pet forms, including mollusks (notably the bivalves), sharks, and bony fishes, flourished throughout the Jurassic. During the Jurassic and also Cretaceous, the ecology of maritime ecosystems started to change, as shown by a rapid boost in diversity of naval organisms. That is thought that boosting predation pressures caused plenty of marine biology to develop far better defenses and burrow an ext deeply into the seafloor. In response, predators also evolved more-effective ways to record their prey. These changes are so far-ranging that lock are called the “Mesozoic naval Revolution.”

The dominant terrestrial vertebrates were dinosaurs, which exhibited good diversity during the Jurassic and also Cretaceous. Birds are believed to have progressed from dinosaur ancestors during the late Jurassic. Ancestors of life vertebrates, such as frogs, toads, and also salamanders, showed up on land along with the two important contemporary mammal groups, the placentals and the marsupials. Plant life likewise exhibited a gradual adjust toward more-modern forms during the course of the Mesozoic. Vice versa, seed ferns had predominated in the Triassic, forests of palmlike gymnosperms recognized as cycads and also conifers proliferated under the tropical and also temperate conditions that prevailed throughout the Jurassic. The an initial flowering plants, or angiosperms, had showed up by the Cretaceous. Lock radiated rapidly and supplanted plenty of of the primitive plant groups to come to be the dominant type of vegetation by the end of the Mesozoic.