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Palaeocene The earliest geological epoch of the Tertiary period. It began about 65 million years ago, following the Cretaceous period, and extended for about 11.1 million years to the beginning of the Eocene (the Palaeocene is sometimes included in the Eocene). It was named by the palaeobotanist W. P. Schimper in 1874. A major floral and faunal discontinuity occurred between the end of the Cretaceous and the beginning of the Palaeocene: following the extinction of many reptiles the mammals became abundant on land. By the end of the epoch primates and rodents had evolved.