Notable in the development of primates and human evolution , are fossilized remains of Ardipithecus ramidus, perhaps one of the earliest identifiable ancestors of man. Fossilized remains found in Ethiopia date to approximately six million years ago, near the end of the Miocene Epoch. Importantly, the fossilized bones found provide evidence that Ardipithecus ramidus could walk upright. Anthropologists assert that the ancestral line between apes and humans diverged six to eight million years ago from a common ancestor that lived during the Miocene Epoch.
In geologic time , the Miocene Epoch occurs during the Tertiary Period (65 million years ago to 2.6 million years ago—and is also sometimes divided or referred to in terms of a Paleogene Period from 65 million years ago to 23 million years ago) and a Neogene Period (23 million years ago to 2.6 million years ago) instead of a singular Tertiary Period—of the Cenozoic Era of the Phanerozoic Eon . The Miocene Epoch is the fourth epoch in the Tertiary Period (in the alternative, the earliest epoch in the Neogene Period).
The Miocene Epoch ranges from approximately 23 million years ago (mya) to 5 mya. The Miocene Epoch was preceded by the Oligocene Epoch and was followed by the Pliocene Epoch .
The Miocene Epoch is further subdivided into (from earliest to most recent) Aquitanian (23 mya to 21 mya), Burdigalian (21 mya to 16 mya), Langhian (16 mya to 14 mya), Serravallian (14 mya to 10 mya), Tortonian (10 mya to 7 mya), and Messinian (7 mya to 5 mya) stages.
Craters dating to the end of the Oligocene Epoch and start of the Miocene Epoch can be studied in Northwest Canada and in Logancha, Russia. Smaller impact craters dating to the end of the middle of the Miocene Epoch are evident in Russia and Germany.
Other notable finds in the fossil record that date to the Miocene Epoch include evidence of the continued extensive development of grasslands initiated during the preceding Eocene and Oligocene Epochs. The grassland development offered a chance for grazing animals to become well established. Many of the modern migratory patterns date to the Miocene Epoch. The fusion of the Arabian plate to the Eurasian plate provided a land bridge from Africa to Asia allowing migration of species and mixing of genetic traits among reproductively compatible sub-species.
The paleobotanical record provides evidence that kelp forests also became well developed during the Miocene Epoch as the climate cyclically warmed and cooled, but more generally became less humid.
See also Archean; Cambrian Period; Cretaceous Period; Dating methods; Devonian Period; Evolution; Evolution, evidence of; Evolutionary mechanisms; Fossils and fossilization; Historical geology; Holocene Epoch; Jurassic Period; Mesozoic Era; Miocene Epoch; Mississippian Period; Ordovician Period; Paleocene Epoch; Paleozoic Era; Pennsylvanian Period; Pleistocene Epoch; Precambrian; Proterozoic Eon; Quaternary Period; Silurian Period; Triassic Period
Miocene epoch (mī´əsēn), fourth epoch of the Tertiary period in the Cenozoic era of geologic time (see Geologic Timescale, table), lasting from around 24.6 to 5.1 million years ago.
North America was more extensively submerged in the Miocene than in the preceding Oligocene epoch and underwent considerable crustal disturbances. The Atlantic and Gulf coasts were flooded about as extensively as in the Eocene epoch. Miocene rocks are found along the Atlantic as far N as Martha's Vineyard, but the series, everywhere thin, is thickest and least interrupted from New Jersey to Maryland. On the Gulf coast it extends from Florida westward to Texas. The Atlantic series is chiefly marls, clays, and sands, with diatomaceous earth; the Florida series, chiefly limestone (Florida having risen as an island in the late Oligocene); the Gulf series, limestone and clastic sediments.
On the Pacific coast, the Great Valley of California was submerged at the beginning of the Miocene. The deposition of the Vaqueros sandstone, clay, and conglomerate was followed by the formation of the oil-rich Monterey series, partly sandstone and shale but largely diatomaceous tufa. In mid-Miocene time there was extensive mountain building in this region; the Cascades and Coast Ranges were elevating, although the Rocky Mts. had by then eroded to low relief. This disturbance was accompanied by volcanic activity—the Columbia and Snake river plateaus consist of over 200,000 sq mi (520,000 sq km) of basaltic lava flows up to 10,000 ft (3,000 m) thick—and by the first known movement along the San Andreas fault zone, engendered by the collision of the North American continental plate with the Pacific Ocean plate (see plate tectonics).
Late in the Miocene a new, extensive submergence resulted in the deposition of the San Pablo shale and sandstone. The sediments of the California Miocene came chiefly from the Sierra Nevada and the Klamaths, which, through erosion, were peneplained by the close of the epoch. In the western interior of North America the Columbia River basalt plateau of Idaho, Washington, Oregon, N California, and N Nevada was formed by a great outpouring of lava, which continued in the succeeding Pliocene epoch.
During the Miocene most of N Europe was elevated, but marine waters covered E Spain, S France, Italy, and a depressed area extending through Hungary to a basin around Vienna. In addition to considerable mountain making, lagoons were formed at the base of the Carpathians and north of the Caucasus in the regions now occupied by the Romanian and Baku oil fields.
The mammalian life of the Miocene was marked by further stages in the development of the horse, by the multiplication and final extinction of the giant hogs, and by the appearance of the mastodons, raccoons, and weasels. Cats, camels, doglike carnivores, and rhinoceroses were common, and species of a great ape (Dryopithecus) inhabited S Europe, Asia, and Africa. In the Miocene a distinct cooling of the climate resulted in the reduction of forests and an increase in grassy plains.