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"History is the lie commonly agreed upon" 

The history of Earth is recorded in the igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks of the outer crust  called the outer lithosphere.  The science of Geology studies these rocks.  Unfortunately, it's not recorded (very well/accurately) in our history books!

Etznab Mathers has compiled an extensive World History Timeline!  Click here to see it.

Here's a look at what the Earth has (probably) looked like for the last 510 million years . . .


510 Ma


Development of algae. First vascular plants. Evolution of invertebrates. The "Cambrian Explosion" of invertebrate diversity. Trilobites, early arthropods which are now extinct, appeared. Trilobites were the first animals to "see" the world around them. Evolution of echinoderms. A single large continent at the south pole, Rodinia, broke apart into Laurentia, Baltica, and Siberia. Laurentia, which is destined to become N. America sits on the equator. Baltica is below it and Siberia is to the right.


470 Ma


Evolution of jawless fishes, coelenterates, arthropods, cephalopods. .


430 Ma


Numerous coral reefs, first widespead land plants, first dry land animals (arthropods), first jawed fishes. Laurussia (old red continent) forms from Laurentia and Baltica


400 Ma


First forests and insects. Origin of amphibians. Lauasia, off to right, has formed from other blocks which broke off from Rodina.


340 Ma


Between the Devonian and Permian, the first club mosses, horsetails, and ferns appeared. First winged insects, reptiles and gymnosperms. Remains of Rodina at the south pole, called Gondwana, move north to collide with North America (Laurussia) to form Pangea (all land).


300 Ma


. Laurasia connects to Pangea through a land bridge in the north.


270 Ma


By the Permian, only a single trilobite family was left and extinction was almost at hand. The end of the Permian, about 250 million years ago, marks the biggest extinction of all time. About 50% of all families and more than 90% of all species died out. Climates became cooler at the end of the Permian and lowered temperatures in tropical regions may have reduced oxygen content in the oceans. There were enormous volcanic eruptions in Siberia which might have increased carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. But, nobody has really good evidence as to what happened. Blocks break off from the left main mass of Pangea (Gondwana) and cross the Tethys Ocean to collide with Asia. These are what is now Turkey, Iran, Tibet.


230 Ma


The mesozoic plants were dominated by ferns, cycads, ginkgophyes, and other strange plants. The early Triassic saw evolution of gymnosperms and modern corals. Ammonites, a group of now extinct cephalopods with a many chambered spiral shell, evolved into an increasing number of forms. Explosion of reptilian diversity. First frogs and dinosaurs. First mammals evolve from mammal-like reptiles.  


170 Ma


Dominance of the dinosaurs. First birds appear. Pangea begins to rotate. Because different parts rotate at slightly different rates, the continent tears apart. The Gult of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean form on the left side of the Tethys Ocean.

Early Cretaceous

120 Ma


Evolution of birds and origin of the three modern mammal groups: monotremes (echidnas and platypus), marsupials, and placentals. Co-evolution of flowering plants and animal polinators. Flowering plants are so successful that they begin to dominate the vegetation. North and South America begin to separate. Europe separates from North America. Off to the right, at the bottom of what is going to become Africa, India and Australia are breaking off.

Late Cretaceous

70 Ma


Extinction of the ammonites. First, sea reptiles become extinct, then dinosaurs. The extinction is termed the KT event from K or Kreta (chalk) and T for Tertiary, another name for the following geological period. During the KT event, 20% of the families of plants and animals on land and 50% in the sea became extinct. The extinction event may have killed some groups over a period as short as thousands of year. But the dinosaurs probably took millions of years before they became extinct. Africa breaks off from South America. Florida and Kansas are under the ocean!


40 Ma


After extinction of the dinosaurs, mammals radiate into ecological nitches formerly occupied by dinosaurs. Placental mammals evolve. First primates appear in the late Cretaceous as one of the first groups of placental mammals. Monkeys appear in the Ecocene and the first true apes appear more than 25 million years ago. India is moving north towards Asia and Australia is moving east.


20 Ma


Gorillas appeared at about 9 million years ago and the human and chimp lineages separated about 5-7 million years ago. India has crashed into Asia, forming the Himalayan mountains. The Rocky mountains grow and the Alps form.


  Evidence indicates that a new continent may form in the future around the North Pole.


Copyright 2010 Tim Stouse
Last modified: December 10, 2010
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