The Paleogene (
During the Paleogene, mammals diversified from relatively small, simple forms into a large group of diverse animals in the wake of the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event that ended the preceding Cretaceous Period.
This period consists of the
epochs. The end of the Paleocene (56 Mya) was marked by the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum, one of the most significant periods of global change during the Cenozoic, which upset oceanic and atmospheric circulation and led to the extinction of numerous deep-sea benthic foraminiferaand on land, a major turnover in mammals. The term "Paleogene System" is applied to the rocks deposited during the Paleogene Period.
Climate and geography
The global climate during the Paleogene departed from the hot and humid conditions of the late
glacial period of the current ice age, when temperatures began to rise again. The trend was partly caused by the formation of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, which significantly lowered oceanic water temperatures. A 2018 study estimated that during the early Palaeogene about 56-48 million years ago, annual air temperatures, over land and at mid-latitude, averaged about 23–29 °C (± 4.7 °C), which is 5–10 °C higher than most previous estimates. For comparison, this was 10 to 15 °C higher than the current annual mean temperatures in these areas. The authors suggest that the current atmospheric carbon dioxide trajectory, if it continues, could establish these temperatures again.
During the Paleogene, the continents continued to drift closer to their current positions. India was in the process of colliding with Asia, forming the Himalayas. The Atlantic Ocean continued to widen by a few centimeters each year. Africa was moving north to collide with Europe and form the Mediterranean Sea, while South America was moving closer to North America (they would later connect via the Isthmus of Panama). Inland seas retreated from North America early in the period. Australia had also separated from Antarctica and was drifting toward Southeast Asia. The 1.2 Myr cycle of obliquity amplitude modulation governed eustatic sea level changes on shorter timescales, with periods of low amplitude coinciding with intervals of low sea levels and vice versa.
Flora and fauna
Tropical taxa diversified faster than those at higher latitudes following the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, leading to the development of a significant latitudinal diversity gradient.
Pronounced cooling in the
Conifer forests developed in mountainous areas. This cooling trend continued, with major fluctuation, until the end of the Pleistocene. This evidence for this floral shift is found in the palynological record.