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6th March 2005
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Science & Nature: Prehistoric Life

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You are here: BBC > Science & Nature > Prehistoric Life > Beasts > Changing World
Paleocene Eocene Oligocene Miocene Pilocene Pleistocene Holocene
Continents Map
Map Key
Continents vegetation Mammals Ocean currents
Paleocene Eocene Oligocene Miocene Pliocene Pleistocene Holocene

Continents in the Palaeocene

Cenozoic means ‘recent life’ and the era began 65 million years ago and ended 56.5 million years ago. It came after the Mesozoic or ‘middle life’ era that preceded it for 185 million years. Two supercontinents existed, separated by the Tethys Sea.

65 million years ago, at the boundary between the Cenozoic and Mesozoic eras, something major happened to the Earth. The result was a huge change that altered both animals and plants around the globe.

The vast Cretaceous inland seas dried up during the Palaeocene epoch, exposing large areas of land in North America and Eurasia.

Northern Hemisphere
North America, Asia and Europe were joined in one Northern Supercontinent, called Laurasia. Greenland started to separate from North America.

Southern Hemisphere
Over the South Pole another huge continent, Gondwanaland - made up of Africa, South America, Antarctica and Australia - continued to split apart.

Africa
Africa and India had already become independent island continents during the Cretaceous period. Africa's separation from South America began about 120 million years ago.

India
Africa and India had already become independent island continents during the Cretaceous period. India separated from Australia/Antarctica about 128 million years ago.

Equatorial regions
Drying of the large Cretaceous seas left only small remnants. Around the Equator, the Tethys Sea was still open.

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