A map of the world as it appeared during the middle Carboniferous, c. 330 Ma
Name formalityFormal
Nickname(s)Age of Amphibians
Usage information
Celestial bodyEarth
Regional usageGlobal (ICS)
Time scale(s) usedICS Time Scale
Chronological unitPeriod
Stratigraphic unitSystem
First proposed byWilliam Daniel Conybeare and William Phillips, 1822
Time span formalityFormal
Lower boundary definitionFAD of the Conodont Siphonodella sulcata (discovered to have biostratigraphic issues as of 2006)[2]
Lower boundary GSSPLa Serre, Montagne Noire, France
43°33′20″N 3°21′26″E / 43.5555°N 3.3573°E / 43.5555; 3.3573
Lower GSSP ratified1990[3]
Upper boundary definitionFAD of the Conodont Streptognathodus isolatus within the morphotype Streptognathodus wabaunsensis chronocline
Upper boundary GSSPAidaralash, Ural Mountains, Kazakhstan
50°14′45″N 57°53′29″E / 50.2458°N 57.8914°E / 50.2458; 57.8914
Upper GSSP ratified1996[4]
Atmospheric and climatic data
Sea level above present dayFalling from 120 m to present-day level throughout the Mississippian, then rising steadily to about 80 m at end of period[5]

The Carboniferous (/ˌkɑːrbəˈnɪfərəs/ KAR-bə-NIF-ər-əs)[6] is a geologic period and system of the Paleozoic that spans 60 million years from the end of the Devonian Period 358.9 million years ago (mya), to the beginning of the Permian Period, 298.9 mya. In North America, the Carboniferous is often treated as two separate geological periods, the earlier Mississippian and the later Pennsylvanian.[7]

The name Carboniferous means "coal-bearing", from the Latin carbō ("coal") and ferō ("bear, carry"), and refers to the many coal beds formed globally during that time.[8] The first of the modern "system" names, it was coined by geologists William Conybeare and William Phillips in 1822,[9] based on a study of the British rock succession.

Carboniferous is the period during which both terrestrial animal and land plant life was well established.[10] Stegocephalia (four-limbed vertebrates including true tetrapods), whose forerunners (tetrapodomorphs) had evolved from lobe-finned fish during the preceding Devonian period, became pentadactylous during the Carboniferous.[11] The period is sometimes called the Age of Amphibians[12] due to the diversification of early amphibians such as the temnospondyls, which became dominant land vertebrates,[13] as well as the first appearance of amniotes including synapsids (the clade to which modern mammals belong) and sauropsids (which include modern reptiles and birds) during the late Carboniferous. Due to the raised atmospheric oxygen level, land arthropods such as arachnids (e.g. trigonotarbids and Pulmonoscorpius), myriapods (e.g. Arthropleura) and insects (e.g. Meganeura) also underwent a major evolutionary radiation during the late Carboniferous. Vast swaths of forests and swamps covered the land, which eventually became the coal beds characteristic of the Carboniferous stratigraphy evident today.

The later half of the period experienced glaciations, low sea level, and mountain building as the continents collided to form Pangaea. A minor marine and terrestrial extinction event, the Carboniferous rainforest collapse, occurred at the end of the period, caused by climate change.[14]

  1. ^ "Chart/Time Scale". International Commission on Stratigraphy.
  2. ^ Kaiser 2009.
  3. ^ Paproth, Feist & Flajs 1991.
  4. ^ Davydov et al. 1998.
  5. ^ Haq & Schutter 2008.
  6. ^ Wells 2008.
  7. ^ University of California, Berkeley 2012.
  8. ^ Cossey et al. 2004, p. 3.
  9. ^ Conybeare & Phillips 1822, p. 323: "Book III. Medial or Carboniferous Order.".
  10. ^ Garwood & Edgecombe 2011.
  11. ^ Irisarri, I., Baurain, D., Brinkmann, H. et al. Phylotranscriptomic consolidation of the jawed vertebrate timetree. Nat Ecol Evol 1, 1370–1378 (2017).
  12. ^ "Carboniferous Period". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  13. ^ "Animal Life in the Paleozoic". Archived from the original on 2003-12-17.
  14. ^ Sahney, Benton & Falcon-Lang 2010.

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