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The Carboniferous ( ) is a
geologic period The geologic time scale (GTS) is a system of chronological dating that classifies Geology, geological strata (stratigraphy) in time. It is used by geologists, paleontology, paleontologists, and other earth sciences, Earth scientists to describe t ...
and
system A system is a group of interacting Interaction is a kind of action that occurs as two or more objects have an effect upon one another. The idea of a two-way effect is essential in the concept of interaction, as opposed to a one-way causal e ...
of the
Paleozoic The Paleozoic (or Palaeozoic) Era ( ; from the Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its popula ...
that spans 60 million years from the end of the
Devonian The Devonian ( ) is a geologic period and system of the Paleozoic The Paleozoic (or Palaeozoic) Era ( ; from the Greek ''palaiós'' (), "old" and ''zōḗ'' (), "life", meaning "ancient life") is the earliest of three geologic eras of the P ...
Period million years ago ( Mya), to the beginning of the
Permian The Permian ( ) is a geologic period and stratigraphic system which spans 47 million years from the end of the Carboniferous period million years ago (Mya), to the beginning of the Triassic period 251.902 Mya. It is the last period of the Paleo ...
Period, Mya. The name ''Carboniferous'' means "coal-bearing" and derives from the
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became the dominant la ...

Latin
words ''
carbō
carbō
'' ("
coal Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock, formed as rock strata (Argentina Argentina (), officially the Argentine Republic ( es, link=no, República Argentina), is a country located mostly in the southern half o ...

coal
") and ''
ferō
ferō
'' ("I bear, I carry"), and was coined by geologists William Conybeare and William Phillips in 1822. Based on a study of the British rock succession, it was the first of the modern 'system' names to be employed, and reflects the fact that many coal beds were formed globally during that time. The Carboniferous is often treated in North America as two geological periods, the earlier Mississippian and the later Pennsylvanian. Terrestrial animal life was well established by the Carboniferous period.
Amphibian Amphibians are ectothermic, tetrapod vertebrates of the Class (biology), class Amphibia. All living amphibians belong to the group Lissamphibia. They inhabit a wide variety of habitats, with most species living within terrestrial animal, ter ...
s were the dominant land vertebrates, of which one branch would eventually evolve into
amniote Amniotes (from Greek ἀμνίον ''amnion'', "membrane surrounding the fetus", earlier "bowl in which the blood of sacrificed animals was caught", from ἀμνός ''amnos'', "lamb") are a clade A clade (; from grc, , ''klados'', "bran ...
s, the first solely terrestrial vertebrates.
Arthropod An arthropod (, (gen. ποδός)) is an invertebrate Invertebrates are animals that neither possess nor develop a vertebral column (commonly known as a ''backbone'' or ''spine''), derived from the notochord. This includes all animals apart fr ...
s were also very common, and many (such as ''
Meganeura ''Meganeura'' is a genus of extinct insect Insects or Insecta (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area arou ...

Meganeura
'') were much larger than those of today. Vast swaths of forest covered the land, which would eventually be laid down and become the coal beds characteristic of the Carboniferous
stratigraphy through Jurassic The Jurassic ( ) is a Geological period, geologic period and System (stratigraphy), stratigraphic system that spanned from the end of the Triassic Period million years ago (Mya) to the beginning of the Cretaceous Period, approxi ...
evident today. Also during this period, the atmospheric content of oxygen reached its highest levels in geological history, 35% compared with 21% today, so terrestrial invertebrates, which breathe by diffusion of oxygen into the body through spiracles, could achieve great size. The later half of the period experienced
glaciation A glacial period (alternatively glacial or glaciation) is an interval of time (thousands of years) within an ice age An ice age is a long period of reduction in the temperature of Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the on ...
s, low sea level, and
mountain building A mountain is an elevated portion of the Earth's crust, generally with steep sides that show significant exposed bedrock. A mountain differs from a plateau in having a limited summit area, and is larger than a hill, typically rising at lea ...
as the continents collided to form
Pangaea Pangaea or Pangea () was a supercontinent In geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek γῆ, ''gē'' ("earth") and -λoγία, ''-logia'', ("study of", "discourse")) is an Earth science concerned with the solid Earth, the rock (geology) ...

Pangaea
. A minor marine and terrestrial extinction event, the
Carboniferous rainforest collapse The Carboniferous rainforest collapse (CRC) was a minor extinction event that occurred around 305 million years ago in the Carboniferous period. It altered the vast coal forests that covered the equatorial region of Euramerica (Europe and America). ...
, occurred at the end of the period, caused by climate change.


Subdivisions

In the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country in . It consists of 50 , a , five major , 326 , and some . At , it is the world's . The United States shares significan ...

United States
the Carboniferous is usually broken into Mississippian (earlier) and Pennsylvanian (later) subperiods. The Mississippian is about twice as long as the Pennsylvanian, but due to the large thickness of coal-bearing deposits with Pennsylvanian ages in Europe and North America, the two subperiods were long thought to have been more or less equal in duration. In Europe the Lower Carboniferous sub-system is known as the
Dinantian Dinantian is the name of a series or epoch In chronology 222px, Joseph Scaliger's ''De emendatione temporum'' (1583) began the modern science of chronology Chronology (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the I ...
, comprising the
Tournaisian The Tournaisian is in the ICS geologic timescale The geologic time scale (GTS) is a system of chronological dating that classifies Geology, geological strata (stratigraphy) in time. It is used by geologists, paleontology, paleontologists, and o ...
and Visean Series, dated at 362.5-332.9 Ma, and the Upper Carboniferous sub-system is known as the Silesian, comprising the
Namurian The Namurian is a stage in the regional stratigraphy of northwest Europe with an age between roughly 326 and 313 Ma (million years ago). It is a subdivision of the Carboniferous system (stratigraphy), system or period (geology), period and the re ...
,
Westphalian Westphalian may refer to: * The culture or people of the Westphalia region of Germany * Westphalian language, one of the major dialect groups of West Low German * Westphalian sovereignty, a concept in international relations * Westphalian (stage), ...
, and
StephanianStephanian can refer to: * Stephanian (stage), a stage in the European stratigraphy of the Carboniferous * Stephanian School of Literature,a body of fictional works written by the alumni of St. Stephen's College, Delhi * A student at St. Stephen's C ...
Series, dated at 332.9-298.9 Ma. The Silesian is roughly contemporaneous with the late Mississippian Serpukhovian plus the Pennsylvanian. In Britain the Dinantian is traditionally known as the Carboniferous Limestone, the Namurian as the
Millstone Grit Millstone Grit is the name given to any of a number of coarse-grained sandstones of Carboniferous age which occur in the British Isles. The name derives from its use in earlier times as a source of millstones for use principally in watermills. Geolo ...
, and the Westphalian as the
Coal Measures The coal measures is a lithostratigraphical term for the coal-bearing part of the Upper Carboniferous System. In the United Kingdom, the Coal Measures Group consists of the Upper Coal Measures Formation, the Middle Coal Measures Formation and the ...
and Pennant Sandstone. The
International Commission on Stratigraphy The International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS), sometimes referred to unofficially as the "International Stratigraphic Commission", is a daughter or major subcommittee grade scientific daughter organization that concerns itself with stratigra ...
(ICS)
faunal stage In chronostratigraphyChronostratigraphy is the branch of stratigraphy that studies the ages of rock stratum, strata in relation to time. The ultimate aim of chronostratigraphy is to arrange the sequence of Deposition (geology), deposition and the ...
s (in bold) from youngest to oldest, together with some of their regional subdivisions, are: ;Late Pennsylvanian :
Gzhelian The Gzhelian ( ) is an age (geology), age in the International Commission on Stratigraphy, ICS geologic timescale or a stage (stratigraphy), stage in the stratigraphic column. It is the youngest stage of the Pennsylvanian (geology), Pennsylvanian, ...
03.7 ± 0.1 – 298.9 ± 0.15 Ma:* Noginskian / Virgilian ''(part)'' :
Kasimovian The Kasimovian is a geochronologic age or chronostratigraphic stage in the ICS geologic timescale The geologic time scale (GTS) is a system of chronological dating that classifies Geology, geological strata (stratigraphy) in time. It is us ...
07.0 ± 0.1 – 303.7 ± 0.1 Ma:* Klazminskian :* Dorogomilovskian / Virgilian ''(part)'' :* Chamovnicheskian / Cantabrian / Missourian :* Krevyakinskian / Cantabrian / Missourian ;Middle Pennsylvanian : Moscovian 15.2 ± 0.2 – 307.0 ± 0.1 Ma:* Myachkovskian / Bolsovian / Desmoinesian :* Podolskian / Desmoinesian :* Kashirskian / Atokan :* Vereiskian / Bolsovian / Atokan ;Early Pennsylvanian :
Bashkirian The Bashkirian is in the International Commission on Stratigraphy, ICS geologic timescale the lowest stage (stratigraphy), stage or oldest age (geology), age of the Pennsylvanian (geology), Pennsylvanian. The Bashkirian age lasted from to Mega ...
23.2 ± 0.4 – 315.2 ± 0.2 Mya:* Melekesskian / Duckmantian :* Cheremshanskian / Langsettian :* Yeadonian :* Marsdenian :* Kinderscoutian ;Late Mississippian :
Serpukhovian The Serpukhovian is in the International Commission on Stratigraphy, ICS geologic timescale the uppermost stage (stratigraphy), stage or youngest age (geology), age of the Mississippian age, Mississippian, the lower system (stratigraphy), subsystem ...
30.9 ± 0.2 – 323.2 ± 0.4 Mya:* Alportian :* Chokierian / Chesterian / Elvirian :* Arnsbergian / Elvirian :* Pendleian ;Middle Mississippian : Viséan 46.7 ± 0.4 – 330.9 ± 0.2 Mya:* Brigantian / St Genevieve / Gasperian / Chesterian :* Asbian / Meramecian :* Holkerian / Salem :* Arundian / Warsaw / Meramecian :* Chadian / Keokuk / Osagean ''(part)'' / Osage ''(part)'' ;Early Mississippian :
Tournaisian The Tournaisian is in the ICS geologic timescale The geologic time scale (GTS) is a system of chronological dating that classifies Geology, geological strata (stratigraphy) in time. It is used by geologists, paleontology, paleontologists, and o ...
58.9 ± 0.4 – 346.7 ± 0.4 Mya:* Ivorian ''(part)'' / Osage ''(part)'' :* Hastarian / Kinderhookian / Chouteau


Palaeogeography

A global drop in
sea level Mean sea level (MSL) (often shortened to sea level) is an average In colloquial, ordinary language, an average is a single number taken as representative of a list of numbers, usually the sum of the numbers divided by how many numbers are in th ...

sea level
at the end of the
Devonian The Devonian ( ) is a geologic period and system of the Paleozoic The Paleozoic (or Palaeozoic) Era ( ; from the Greek ''palaiós'' (), "old" and ''zōḗ'' (), "life", meaning "ancient life") is the earliest of three geologic eras of the P ...
reversed early in the Carboniferous; this created the widespread inland seas and the
carbonate In chemistry, a carbonate is a salt Salt is a mineral composed primarily of sodium chloride (NaCl), a chemical compound belonging to the larger class of Salt (chemistry), salts; salt in its natural form as a crystallinity, crystalline min ...

carbonate
deposition of the Mississippian. There was also a drop in south polar temperatures; southern
Gondwana Gondwana () or Gondwanaland was a supercontinent In geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek γῆ, ''gē'' ("earth") and -λoγία, ''-logia'', ("study of", "discourse")) is an Earth science concerned with the solid Earth, the rock (ge ...

Gondwana
land was
glaciated A glacier ( or ) is a persistent body of dense ice that is constantly moving under its own weight. A glacier forms where the accumulation of snow exceeds its ablation over many years, often centuries. Glaciers slowly deform and flow under str ...
throughout the period, though it is uncertain if the ice sheets were a holdover from the Devonian or not. These conditions apparently had little effect in the deep tropics, where lush swamps, later to become coal, flourished to within 30 degrees of the northernmost
glacier A glacier (; ) is a persistent body of dense that is constantly moving under its own weight. A glacier forms where the accumulation of exceeds its over many years, often . Glaciers slowly deform and flow under stresses induced by their wei ...

glacier
s. Mid-Carboniferous, a drop in sea level precipitated a major marine extinction, one that hit
crinoids Crinoids are marine animals that make up the Class (biology), class Crinoidea, one of the classes of the phylum echinoderm, Echinodermata, which also includes the starfish, brittle stars, sea urchins and sea cucumbers. Those crinoids which, in th ...

crinoids
and
ammonites Ammonoids are a group of extinct Extinction is the termination of a kind of organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ὀργανισμός, ''organismos'') is any individual contiguous system that embodies the Li ...

ammonites
especially hard. This sea level drop and the associated
unconformity An unconformity is a buried erosion surface, erosional or non-depositional surface separating two Rock (geology), rock masses or Stratum, strata of different ages, indicating that sediment deposition was not continuous. In general, the older layer ...

unconformity
in North America separate the Mississippian subperiod from the Pennsylvanian subperiod. This happened about 323 million years ago, at the onset of the Permo-Carboniferous Glaciation. The Carboniferous was a time of active mountain-building as the
supercontinent In geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek γῆ, ''gē'' ("earth") and -λoγία, ''-logia'', ("study of", "discourse")) is an Earth science concerned with the solid Earth, the rock (geology), rocks of which it is composed, and the proces ...
Pangaea Pangaea or Pangea () was a supercontinent In geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek γῆ, ''gē'' ("earth") and -λoγία, ''-logia'', ("study of", "discourse")) is an Earth science concerned with the solid Earth, the rock (geology) ...

Pangaea
came together. The southern
continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven geographical regions are commonly regarded as continents. Ordered from largest in area to smal ...

continent
s remained tied together in the supercontinent Gondwana, which collided with North America–Europe (
Laurussia Laurasia () was the more northern of two large landmasses that formed part of the Pangaea supercontinent from around (Mya (unit), Mya), the other being Gondwana. It separated from Gondwana (beginning in the late Triassic period) during the brea ...
) along the present line of eastern North America. This continental collision resulted in the
Hercynian orogeny The Variscan or Hercynian orogeny was a geologic mountain-building event caused by Late Paleozoic The Paleozoic (or Palaeozoic) Era ( ; from the Greek ''palaiós'' (), "old" and ''zōḗ'' (), "life", meaning "ancient life") is the earliest of ...
in Europe, and the
Alleghenian orogeny The Alleghanian orogeny or Appalachian orogeny is one of the geology, geological mountain-forming events that formed the Appalachian Mountains and Allegheny Mountains. The term and spelling Alleghany orogeny was originally proposed by H.P. Woodward ...
in North America; it also extended the newly uplifted
Appalachians The Appalachian Mountains, often called the Appalachians, are a system of mountains in eastern North America North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere. It can al ...

Appalachians
southwestward as the
Ouachita Mountains The Ouachita Mountains (), simply referred to as the Ouachitas, are a mountain range A mountain range is a series of mountains ranged in a line and connected by high ground. A mountain system or mountain belt is a group of mountain ranges wi ...

Ouachita Mountains
. In the same time frame, much of present eastern
Eurasian plate The Eurasian Plate is a tectonic plate This is a list of tectonic plates on Earth's surface. Tectonic plates are pieces of Earth's crust and uppermost mantle, together referred to as the lithosphere. The plates are around thick and consist ...
welded itself to Europe along the line of the
Ural Mountains The Ural Mountains (; rus, Ура́льские го́ры, r=Uralskiye gory, p=ʊˈralʲskʲɪjə ˈgorɨ; ba, Урал тауҙары, ''Ural tauźarı'') or simply the Urals, are a mountain range that runs approximately from north to south ...
. Most of the
Mesozoic The Mesozoic Era ( ), also called the Age of Reptiles and the Age of Conifers, is the second-to-last era of Earth's geological history, lasting from about and comprising the Triassic The Triassic ( ) is a geologic period and system A system ...
supercontinent of Pangea was now assembled, although North China (which would collide in the Latest Carboniferous), and
South China South China () is a geographical and cultural region that covers the southernmost part of China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in . It is the world's , with a of more than 1.4 billion. China ...
continents were still separated from
Laurasia Laurasia () was the more northern of two large landmasses that formed part of the Pangaea Pangaea or Pangea () was a supercontinent In geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek γῆ, ''gē'' ("earth") and -λoγία, ''-logia'', ("s ...
. The Late Carboniferous Pangaea was shaped like an "O." There were two major oceans in the Carboniferous—
Panthalassa Panthalassa, also known as the Panthalassic Ocean or Panthalassan Ocean (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located i ...
and
Paleo-Tethys The Paleo-Tethys or Palaeo-Tethys Ocean was an ocean The ocean (also the sea or the world ocean) is the body of salt water which covers approximately 71% of the surface of the Earth.
, which was inside the "O" in the Carboniferous Pangaea. Other minor oceans were shrinking and eventually closed -
Rheic Ocean The Rheic Ocean was an ocean The ocean (also the sea or the world ocean) is the body of salt water which covers approximately 71% of the surface of the Earth.world map, originally prepared by Joan Blaeu for his ''Atlas Maior'', published ...
(closed by the assembly of
South South is one of the cardinal directions or compass points. South is the opposite of north and is perpendicular to the east and west. Etymology The word ''south'' comes from Old English ''sūþ'', from earlier Proto-Germanic language, Proto-Germa ...

South
and
North America North America is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven geographical regions are commonly regarded as continen ...

North America
), the small, shallow
Ural Ocean The Ural Ocean (also called the Uralic Ocean) was a small, ancient ocean that was situated between Siberia Siberia (; rus, Сибирь, r=Sibir', p=sʲɪˈbʲirʲ, a=Ru-Сибирь.ogg) is an extensive geographical region spanning much of N ...
(which was closed by the collision of
Baltica Baltica is a paleocontinent A paleocontinent or palaeocontinent is a distinct area of continental crust 350px, The thickness of Crust (geology)#Earth's crust, Earth's crust (km) Continental crust is the layer of Igneous rock, igneous, Sedim ...
and Siberia continents, creating the
Ural Mountains The Ural Mountains (; rus, Ура́льские го́ры, r=Uralskiye gory, p=ʊˈralʲskʲɪjə ˈgorɨ; ba, Урал тауҙары, ''Ural tauźarı'') or simply the Urals, are a mountain range that runs approximately from north to south ...
) and Proto-Tethys Ocean (closed by
North China North China, or Huabei ( ) is a List of regions of China, geographical region of China, consisting of the provinces of Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Shanxi and Inner Mongolia. Part of the larger region of Northern China (''Beifang''), it lies north ...
collision with
Siberia Siberia (; rus, Сибирь, r=Sibir', p=sʲɪˈbʲirʲ, a=Ru-Сибирь.ogg) is an extensive geographical region, constituting all of North Asia, from the Ural Mountains in the west to the Pacific Ocean in the east. It has been a part of R ...
/
Kazakhstania Kazakhstania ( kk, Qazaqstaniya), the Kazakh terranes, or the Kazakhstan Block, is a geological region in Central Asia Central Asia is a region in Asia which stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China and Mongolia in the east, and from ...
).


Climate

Average global temperatures in the Early Carboniferous Period were high: approximately 20 °C (68 °F). However, cooling during the Middle Carboniferous reduced average global temperatures to about 12 °C (54 °F). Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels fell during the Carboniferous Period from roughly 8 times the current level in the beginning, to a level similar to today's at the end. Lack of growth rings of fossilized trees suggest a lack of seasons of a tropical climate. Glaciations in
Gondwana Gondwana () or Gondwanaland was a supercontinent In geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek γῆ, ''gē'' ("earth") and -λoγία, ''-logia'', ("study of", "discourse")) is an Earth science concerned with the solid Earth, the rock (ge ...

Gondwana
, triggered by Gondwana's southward movement, continued into the
Permian The Permian ( ) is a geologic period and stratigraphic system which spans 47 million years from the end of the Carboniferous period million years ago (Mya), to the beginning of the Triassic period 251.902 Mya. It is the last period of the Paleo ...
and because of the lack of clear markers and breaks, the deposits of this glacial period are often referred to as Permo-Carboniferous in age. The cooling and drying of the climate led to the
Carboniferous Rainforest Collapse The Carboniferous rainforest collapse (CRC) was a minor extinction event that occurred around 305 million years ago in the Carboniferous period. It altered the vast coal forests that covered the equatorial region of Euramerica (Europe and America). ...
(CRC) during the late Carboniferous. Tropical rainforests fragmented and then were eventually devastated by climate change.


Rocks and coal

Carboniferous rocks in Europe and eastern North America largely consist of a repeated sequence of
limestone Limestone is a common type of carbonate In chemistry, a carbonate is a salt Salt is a mineral composed primarily of sodium chloride (NaCl), a chemical compound belonging to the larger class of Salt (chemistry), salts; salt in its na ...

limestone
,
sandstone Sandstone is a clastic sedimentary rock of a clast (sand grain), derived from a basalt Basalt (, ) is a fine-grained extrusive igneous rock formed from the rapid cooling of low-viscosity lava rich in magnesium and iron ('' mafic ' ...

sandstone
,
shale Shale is a fine-grained, clastic Clastic rocks are composed of fragments, or clasts, of pre-existing minerals In geology and mineralogy, a mineral or mineral species is, broadly speaking, a solid chemical compound with a fairly well-defi ...

shale
and
coal Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock, formed as rock strata (Argentina Argentina (), officially the Argentine Republic ( es, link=no, República Argentina), is a country located mostly in the southern half o ...

coal
beds. In North America, the early Carboniferous is largely marine limestone, which accounts for the division of the Carboniferous into two periods in North American schemes. The Carboniferous coal beds provided much of the fuel for power generation during the
Industrial Revolution The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes in Great Britain, continental Europe Continental Europe or mainland Europe is the contiguous continent A continent is any of several large landmasse ...
and are still of great economic importance. The large coal deposits of the Carboniferous may owe their existence primarily to two factors. The first of these is the appearance of
wood Wood is a porous and fibrous structural tissue found in the stems and roots of tree In botany, a tree is a perennial plant with an elongated Plant stem, stem, or trunk (botany), trunk, supporting branches and leaves in most species. ...

wood
tissue and
bark Bark may refer to: * Bark (botany), an outer layer of a woody plant * Bark (sound), a vocalization of some animals Places * Bark, Germany * Bark, Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship, Poland Arts, entertainment, and media * ''Bark'' (Jefferson Airp ...
-bearing trees. The
evolution Evolution is change in the heritable Heredity, also called inheritance or biological inheritance, is the passing on of Phenotypic trait, traits from parents to their offspring; either through asexual reproduction or sexual reproduction, ...

evolution
of the wood fiber
lignin Lignin is a class of complex organic polymer A polymer (; Greek ''poly- Poly, from the Greek :wikt:πολύς, πολύς meaning "many" or "much", may refer to: Businesses * China Poly Group Corporation, a Chinese business group, and its s ...

lignin
and the bark-sealing, waxy substance
suberin Suberin, cutin and lignins are complex, higher plant Epidermis (botany), epidermis and periderm cell-wall macromolecules, forming a protective barrier. Suberin, a complex polyester biopolymer, is lipophilic, and composed of long chain fatty acids ...

suberin
variously opposed decay organisms so effectively that dead materials accumulated long enough to fossilise on a large scale. The second factor was the lower sea levels that occurred during the Carboniferous as compared to the preceding
Devonian The Devonian ( ) is a geologic period and system of the Paleozoic The Paleozoic (or Palaeozoic) Era ( ; from the Greek ''palaiós'' (), "old" and ''zōḗ'' (), "life", meaning "ancient life") is the earliest of three geologic eras of the P ...
period. This promoted the development of extensive lowland
swamp A swamp is a forested wetland A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is flooded by water, either permanently (for years or decades) or seasonally (for weeks or months). Flooding results in oxygen-free (Anoxic waters, anoxic) processes pre ...

swamp
s and
forest A forest is an area of land dominated by tree In botany, a tree is a perennial plant with an elongated Plant stem, stem, or trunk (botany), trunk, supporting branches and leaves in most species. In some usages, the definition of a ...

forest
s in North America and Europe. Based on a genetic analysis of mushroom fungi, it was proposed that large quantities of
wood Wood is a porous and fibrous structural tissue found in the stems and roots of tree In botany, a tree is a perennial plant with an elongated Plant stem, stem, or trunk (botany), trunk, supporting branches and leaves in most species. ...

wood
were buried during this period because animals and decomposing
bacteria Bacteria (; common noun bacteria, singular bacterium) are ubiquitous, mostly free-living organisms often consisting of one Cell (biology), biological cell. They constitute a large domain (biology), domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typ ...

bacteria
and fungi had not yet
evolved Evolution is change in the heritable Heredity, also called inheritance or biological inheritance, is the passing on of Phenotypic trait, traits from parents to their offspring; either through asexual reproduction or sexual reproduction, ...

evolved
enzymes that could effectively digest the resistant phenolic lignin polymers and waxy suberin polymers. They suggest that fungi that could break those substances down effectively only became dominant towards the end of the period, making subsequent coal formation much rarer. The Carboniferous trees made extensive use of lignin. They had bark to wood ratios of 8 to 1, and even as high as 20 to 1. This compares to modern values less than 1 to 4. This bark, which must have been used as support as well as protection, probably had 38% to 58% lignin. Lignin is insoluble, too large to pass through cell walls, too heterogeneous for specific enzymes, and toxic, so that few organisms other than
Basidiomycetes Basidiomycota () is one of two large divisions Division or divider may refer to: Mathematics *Division (mathematics) Division is one of the four basic operations of arithmetic, the ways that numbers are combined to make new numbers. The other ...
fungi can degrade it. To oxidize it requires an atmosphere of greater than 5% oxygen, or compounds such as peroxides. It can linger in soil for thousands of years and its toxic breakdown products inhibit decay of other substances. As a result, undegraded carbon built up, resulting in the extensive burial of biologically fixed
carbon Carbon (from la, carbo "coal") is a with the C and 6. It is lic and —making four s available to form s. It belongs to group 14 of the periodic table. Carbon makes up only about 0.025 percent of Earth's crust. Three occur naturally, ...

carbon
, leading to an increase in
oxygen Oxygen is the chemical element Image:Simple Periodic Table Chart-blocks.svg, 400px, Periodic table, The periodic table of the chemical elements In chemistry, an element is a pure substance consisting only of atoms that all have the same ...

oxygen
levels in the atmosphere; estimates place the peak oxygen content as high as 35%, as compared to 21% today. This oxygen level may have increased
wildfire A wildfire, bushfire, wildland fire or rural fire is an unplanned, unwanted, uncontrolled fire BBQ. Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material in the exothermic chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction ...

wildfire
activity. It also may have promoted
gigantism Gigantism ( el, γίγας, ''gígas'', " giant", plural γίγαντες, ''gígantes''), also known as giantism, is a condition characterized by excessive growth and height significantly above average. In humans, this condition is caused by ove ...
of
insect Insects (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in ...

insect
s and
amphibian Amphibians are ectothermic, tetrapod vertebrates of the Class (biology), class Amphibia. All living amphibians belong to the group Lissamphibia. They inhabit a wide variety of habitats, with most species living within terrestrial animal, ter ...
s — creatures that have been constrained in size by
respiratory The respiratory system (also respiratory apparatus, ventilatory system) is a biological system A biological system is a complex biological network, network which connects several biologically relevant entities. Biological organization spans sever ...
systems that are limited in their physiological ability to transport and distribute oxygen at the lower atmospheric concentrations that have since been available. In eastern North America, marine beds are more common in the older part of the period than the later part and are almost entirely absent by the late Carboniferous. More diverse geology existed elsewhere, of course. Marine life is especially rich in
crinoids Crinoids are marine animals that make up the Class (biology), class Crinoidea, one of the classes of the phylum echinoderm, Echinodermata, which also includes the starfish, brittle stars, sea urchins and sea cucumbers. Those crinoids which, in th ...

crinoids
and other
echinoderms An echinoderm () is any member of the phylum Echinodermata (; ) of marine life, marine animals. The adults are recognizable by their (usually five-point) radial symmetry, and include starfish, sea urchins, sand dollars, and sea cucumbers, as we ...

echinoderms
.
Brachiopods Brachiopods (), phylum (biology), phylum Brachiopoda, are a group of lophotrochozoan animals that have hard "valves" (shells) on the upper and lower surfaces, unlike the left and right arrangement in bivalve molluscs. Brachiopod valves are hinged ...

Brachiopods
were abundant.
Trilobite Trilobites (; meaning "three lobes") are a group of marine s that form the Trilobita. Trilobites form one of the earliest-known groups of arthropods. The first appearance of trilobites in the fossil record defines the base of the of the ( ...

Trilobite
s became quite uncommon. On land, large and diverse
plant Plants are predominantly photosynthetic Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to Energy transformation, convert light energy into chemical energy that, through cellular respiration, can later be released to fuel ...

plant
populations existed. Land
vertebrates Vertebrates () comprise all species of animal Animals (also called Metazoa) are multicellular eukaryotic organisms that form the Kingdom (biology), biological kingdom Animalia. With few exceptions, animals Heterotroph, consume organic ma ...

vertebrates
included large amphibians.


Life


Plants

Early Carboniferous Early may refer to: History * The beginning or oldest part of a defined historical period, as opposed to middle or late periods, e.g.: ** Early Christianity ** Early modern Europe Places in the United States * Early, Iowa * Early, Texas * Early B ...
land plants, some of which were preserved in
coal ball A coal ball is a type of concretion, varying in shape from an imperfect sphere to a flat-lying, irregular slab. Coal balls were formed in Carboniferous Period The Carboniferous ( ) is a Period (geology), geologic period and System (stratigraph ...
s, were very similar to those of the preceding Late
Devonian The Devonian ( ) is a geologic period and system of the Paleozoic The Paleozoic (or Palaeozoic) Era ( ; from the Greek ''palaiós'' (), "old" and ''zōḗ'' (), "life", meaning "ancient life") is the earliest of three geologic eras of the P ...
, but new groups also appeared at this time. The main Early Carboniferous plants were the Equisetales (horse-tails), Sphenophyllales (scrambling plants), Lycopodiales (club mosses), Lepidodendrales (scale trees), Filicales (ferns), Medullosales (informally included in the "Pteridospermatophyta, seed ferns", an artificial assemblage of a number of early gymnosperm groups) and the Cordaitales. These continued to dominate throughout the period, but during Pennsylvanian (geology), late Carboniferous, several other groups, Cycadophyta (cycads), the Callistophytales (another group of "seed ferns"), and the Voltziales (related to and sometimes included under the conifers), appeared. The Carboniferous lycophytes of the order Lepidodendrales, which are cousins (but not ancestors) of the tiny club-moss of today, were huge trees with trunks 30 meters high and up to 1.5 meters in diameter. These included ''Lepidodendron'' (with its cone called Lepidostrobus), ''Anabathra (plant), Anabathra'', ''Lepidophloios'' and ''Sigillaria''. The roots of several of these forms are known as Stigmaria. Unlike present-day trees, their secondary growth took place in the Cortex (botany), cortex, which also provided stability, instead of the xylem. The Cladoxylopsida, Cladoxylopsids were large trees, that were ancestors of ferns, first arising in the Carboniferous. The fronds of some Carboniferous ferns are almost identical with those of living species. Probably many species were epiphytic. Fossil ferns and "seed ferns" include ''Pecopteris'', ''Cyclopteris'', ''Neuropteris'', ''Alethopteris'', and ''Sphenopteris''; ''Megaphyton'' and ''Caulopteris'' were tree ferns. The Equisetales included the common giant form ''Calamites'', with a trunk diameter of 30 to and a height of up to . ''Sphenophyllum'' was a slender climbing plant with whorls of leaves, which was probably related both to the calamites and the lycopods. ''Cordaites'', a tall plant (6 to over 30 meters) with strap-like leaves, was related to the cycads and conifers; the catkin-like reproductive organs, which bore ovules/seeds, is called ''Cardiocarpus''. These plants were thought to live in swamps. True coniferous trees (''Walchia'', of the order Voltziales) appear later in the Carboniferous, and preferred higher drier ground.


Marine invertebrates

In the oceans the marine invertebrate groups are the Foraminifera, Anthozoa, corals, Bryozoa, Ostracoda, brachiopods, Ammonoidea, ammonoids, hederellid, hederelloids, microconchids and echinoderms (especially crinoids). For the first time foraminifera take a prominent part in the marine faunas. The large spindle-shaped genus Fusulinida, Fusulina and its relatives were abundant in what is now Russia, China, Japan, North America; other important genera include ''Valvulina'', ''Endothyra'', ''Archaediscus'', and ''Saccammina'' (the latter common in Britain and Belgium). Some Carboniferous genera are still Extant taxon, extant. The microscopic shells of radiolarians are found in cherts of this age in the Culm Measures, Culm of Devon and Cornwall, and in Russia, Germany and elsewhere. Porifera, Sponges are known from spicule (sponge), spicules and anchor ropes, and include various forms such as the Calcispongea ''Cotyliscus'' and ''Girtycoelia'', the demosponge ''Chaetetes'', and the genus of unusual colonial Hyalospongea, glass sponges ''Titusvillia''. Both reef-building and solitary corals diversify and flourish; these include both Rugosa, rugose (for example, ''Caninia (genus), Caninia'', ''Corwenia'', ''Neozaphrentis''), heterocorals, and Tabulata, tabulate (for example, ''Chladochonus'', ''Michelinia'') forms. Conularids were well represented by ''Conularia'' Bryozoa are abundant in some regions; the fenestellids including ''Fenestella'', ''Polypora'', and ''Archimedes (bryozoan), Archimedes'', so named because it is in the shape of an Archimedean screw. Brachiopods are also abundant; they include Productida, productids, some of which (for example, ''Gigantoproductus'') reached very large (for brachiopods) size and had very thick shells, while others like ''Chonetes'' were more conservative in form. Athyridida, Athyridids, Spiriferida, spiriferids, Rhynchonellida, rhynchonellids, and Terebratulida, terebratulids are also very common. Inarticulate forms include ''Discina (brachiopod), Discina'' and ''Crania (genus), Crania''. Some species and genera had a very wide distribution with only minor variations. Annelids such as ''Serpulites'' are common fossils in some horizons. Among the mollusca, the bivalves continue to increase in numbers and importance. Typical genera include ''Aviculopecten'', ''Posidonomya'', ''Nucula'', ''Carbonicola'', ''Edmondia'', and ''Modiola''. Gastropods are also numerous, including the genera ''Murchisonia'', ''Euomphalus'', ''Naticopsis''. Nautiloid cephalopods are represented by tightly coiled Nautilida, nautilids, with straight-shelled and curved-shelled forms becoming increasingly rare. Goniatite Ammonoidea, ammonoids are common.
Trilobite Trilobites (; meaning "three lobes") are a group of marine s that form the Trilobita. Trilobites form one of the earliest-known groups of arthropods. The first appearance of trilobites in the fossil record defines the base of the of the ( ...

Trilobite
s are rarer than in previous periods, on a steady trend towards extinction, represented only by the proetid group. Ostracoda, a class of crustaceans, were abundant as representatives of the meiobenthos; genera included ''Amphissites'', ''Bairdia'', ''Beyrichiopsis'', ''Cavellina'', ''Coryellina'', ''Cribroconcha'', ''Hollinella'', ''Kirkbya'', ''Knoxiella'', and ''Libumella''. Amongst the echinoderms, the crinoids were the most numerous. Dense submarine thickets of long-stemmed crinoids appear to have flourished in shallow seas, and their remains were consolidated into thick beds of rock. Prominent genera include ''Cyathocrinus'', ''Woodocrinus'', and ''Actinocrinus''. Echinoids such as ''Archaeocidaris'' and ''Palaeechinus'' were also present. The blastoids, which included the Pentreinitidae and Codasteridae and superficially resembled crinoids in the possession of long stalks attached to the seabed, attain their maximum development at this time. File:Aviculopecten subcardiformis01.JPG, ''Aviculopecten subcardiformis''; a bivalve from the Logan Formation (Lower Carboniferous) of Wooster, Ohio (external mold). File:LoganFauna011312.jpg, Bivalves (''Aviculopecten'') and brachiopods (''Syringothyris'') in the Logan Formation (Lower Carboniferous) in Wooster, Ohio. File:Syringothyris01.JPG, ''Syringothyris'' sp.; a spiriferid brachiopod from the Logan Formation (Lower Carboniferous) of Wooster, Ohio (internal mold). File:Palaeophycus01.JPG, ''Palaeophycus'' ichnosp.; a trace fossil from the Logan Formation (Lower Carboniferous) of Wooster, Ohio. File:PlatyceratidMississippian.JPG, Crinoid calyx from the Lower Carboniferous of Ohio with a conical Platyceratidae, platyceratid gastropod (''Palaeocapulus acutirostre'') attached. File:Conulariid03.jpg, Conulariid from the Lower Carboniferous of Indiana. File:Syringoporid.jpg, Tabulate coral (a syringoporid); Boone Limestone (Lower Carboniferous) near Hiwasse, Arkansas.


Freshwater and lagoonal invertebrates

Freshwater Carboniferous invertebrates include various bivalve molluscs that lived in brackish or fresh water, such as ''Anthraconaia'', ''Naiadites'', and ''Carbonicola''; diverse crustaceans such as ''Candona'', ''Carbonita (genus), Carbonita'', ''Darwinula'', ''Estheria (crustacean), Estheria'', ''Acanthocaris'', ''Dithyrocaris'', and ''Anthrapalaemon''. The eurypterids were also diverse, and are represented by such genera as ''Adelophthalmus'', ''Megarachne'' (originally misinterpreted as a giant spider, hence its name) and the specialised very large ''Hibbertopterus''. Many of these were amphibious. Frequently a temporary return of marine conditions resulted in marine or brackish water genera such as ''Lingula (genus), Lingula'', Orbiculoidea, and ''Productus'' being found in the thin beds known as marine bands.


Terrestrial invertebrates

Fossil remains of air-breathing
insect Insects (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in ...

insect
s, myriapods and arachnids are known from the late Carboniferous, but so far not from the early Carboniferous. The first true priapulids appeared during this period. Their diversity when they do appear, however, shows that these arthropods were both well developed and numerous. Their large size can be attributed to the moistness of the environment (mostly swampy fern forests) and the fact that the oxygen concentration in the Earth's atmosphere in the Carboniferous was much higher than today. This required less effort for respiration and allowed Arthropoda, arthropods to grow larger with the up to millipede-like ''Arthropleura'' being the largest-known land invertebrate of all time. Among the insect groups are the huge predatory Protodonata (griffinflies), among which was ''
Meganeura ''Meganeura'' is a genus of extinct insect Insects or Insecta (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area arou ...

Meganeura
'', a giant dragonfly-like insect and with a wingspan of ca. —the largest flying insect ever to roam the planet. Further groups are the Syntonopterodea (relatives of present-day Ephemeroptera, mayflies), the abundant and often large sap-sucking Palaeodictyopteroidea, the diverse herbivorous Protorthoptera, and numerous Basal (phylogenetics), basal Dictyoptera (ancestors of cockroaches). Many insects have been obtained from the coalfields of Saarbrücken and Commentry, and from the hollow trunks of fossil trees in Nova Scotia. Some British coalfields have yielded good specimens: ''Archaeoptilus'', from the Derbyshire coalfield, had a large wing with preserved part, and some specimens (''Brodia'') still exhibit traces of brilliant wing colors. In the Nova Scotian tree trunks land snails (''Archaeozonites'', ''Dendropupa'') have been found. File:Meganeura.jpg, The late Carboniferous giant dragonfly-like insect ''
Meganeura ''Meganeura'' is a genus of extinct insect Insects or Insecta (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area arou ...

Meganeura
'' grew to wingspans of . File:20210116 Pulmonoscorpius kirktonensis.png, The gigantic ''Pulmonoscorpius'' from the early Carboniferous reached a length of up to .


Fish

Many fish inhabited the Carboniferous seas; predominantly Elasmobranchs (sharks and their relatives). These included some, like ''Psammodus'', with crushing pavement-like teeth adapted for grinding the shells of brachiopods, crustaceans, and other marine organisms. Other sharks had piercing teeth, such as the Symmoriida; some, the petalodonts, had peculiar cycloid cutting teeth. Most of the sharks were marine, but the Xenacanthida invaded fresh waters of the coal swamps. Among the Osteichthyes, bony fish, the Palaeonisciformes found in coastal waters also appear to have migrated to rivers. Sarcopterygii, Sarcopterygian fish were also prominent, and one group, the Rhizodonts, reached very large size. Most species of Carboniferous marine fish have been described largely from teeth, fin spines and dermal ossicles, with smaller freshwater fish preserved whole. Freshwater fish were abundant, and include the genera ''Ctenodus'', ''Uronemus'', ''Acanthodes'', ''Cheirodus'', and ''Gyracanthus''. Sharks (especially the ''Stethacanthids'') underwent a major evolutionary radiation during the Carboniferous. It is believed that this evolutionary radiation occurred because the decline of the Placodermi, placoderms at the end of the Devonian period caused many Niche (ecology), environmental niches to become unoccupied and allowed new organisms to evolve and fill these niches. As a result of the evolutionary radiation Carboniferous sharks assumed a wide variety of bizarre shapes including ''Stethacanthus'' which possessed a flat brush-like dorsal fin with a patch of Dermal denticle, denticles on its top. ''Stethacanthus'' unusual fin may have been used in mating rituals. File:Stethacanthus BW.jpg, ''Akmonistion'' of the shark order Symmoriida roamed the oceans of the early Carboniferous. File:Falcatus.jpg, ''Falcatus'' was a Carboniferous shark, with a high degree of sexual dimorphism.


Tetrapods

Carboniferous
amphibian Amphibians are ectothermic, tetrapod vertebrates of the Class (biology), class Amphibia. All living amphibians belong to the group Lissamphibia. They inhabit a wide variety of habitats, with most species living within terrestrial animal, ter ...
s were diverse and common by the middle of the period, more so than they are today; some were as long as 6 meters, and those fully terrestrial as adults had scaly skin. They included a number of basal tetrapod groups classified in early books under the Labyrinthodontia. These had long bodies, a head covered with bony plates and generally weak or undeveloped limbs. The largest were over 2 meters long. They were accompanied by an assemblage of smaller amphibians included under the Lepospondyli, often only about long. Some Carboniferous amphibians were aquatic and lived in rivers (''Loxomma'', ''Eogyrinus'', ''Proterogyrinus''); others may have been semi-aquatic (''Ophiderpeton'', ''Amphibamus'', ''Hyloplesion'') or terrestrial (''Dendrerpeton'', ''Tuditanus'', ''Anthracosaurus''). The
Carboniferous Rainforest Collapse The Carboniferous rainforest collapse (CRC) was a minor extinction event that occurred around 305 million years ago in the Carboniferous period. It altered the vast coal forests that covered the equatorial region of Euramerica (Europe and America). ...
slowed the evolution of amphibians who could not survive as well in the cooler, drier conditions. Reptiles, however, prospered due to specific key adaptations. One of the greatest evolutionary innovations of the Carboniferous was the
amniote Amniotes (from Greek ἀμνίον ''amnion'', "membrane surrounding the fetus", earlier "bowl in which the blood of sacrificed animals was caught", from ἀμνός ''amnos'', "lamb") are a clade A clade (; from grc, , ''klados'', "bran ...
egg, which allowed the laying of eggs in a dry environment, allowing for the further exploitation of the land by certain tetrapods. These included the earliest Sauropsida, sauropsid reptiles (''Hylonomus''), and the earliest known synapsid (''Archaeothyris''). These small lizard-like animals quickly gave rise to many descendants, including reptiles, birds, and mammals. Reptiles underwent a major evolutionary radiation in response to the drier climate that preceded the rainforest collapse. By the end of the Carboniferous period,
amniote Amniotes (from Greek ἀμνίον ''amnion'', "membrane surrounding the fetus", earlier "bowl in which the blood of sacrificed animals was caught", from ἀμνός ''amnos'', "lamb") are a clade A clade (; from grc, , ''klados'', "bran ...
s had already diversified into a number of groups, including Protorothyrididae, protorothyridids, captorhinidae, captorhinids, Araeoscelidia, araeoscelids, and several Family (biology), families of pelycosaurs. File:Pederpes22small.jpg, The
amphibian Amphibians are ectothermic, tetrapod vertebrates of the Class (biology), class Amphibia. All living amphibians belong to the group Lissamphibia. They inhabit a wide variety of habitats, with most species living within terrestrial animal, ter ...
-like ''Pederpes'', the most primitive Mississippian tetrapod File:Hylonomus BW.jpg, ''Hylonomus'', the earliest Sauropsida, sauropsid reptile, appeared in the Pennsylvanian. File:Petrolacosaurus BW.jpg, ''Petrolacosaurus'', the first diapsid reptile known, lived during the late Carboniferous. File:Archaeothyris BW.jpg, ''Archaeothyris'' was a very early synapsid and the oldest known.


Fungi

As plants and animals were growing in size and abundance in this time (for example, ''Lepidodendron''), land fungi diversified further. Marine fungi still occupied the oceans. All modern class (biology), classes of fungi were present in the Late Carboniferous ( Pennsylvanian Epoch). During the Carboniferous, animals and bacteria had great difficulty with processing the
lignin Lignin is a class of complex organic polymer A polymer (; Greek ''poly- Poly, from the Greek :wikt:πολύς, πολύς meaning "many" or "much", may refer to: Businesses * China Poly Group Corporation, a Chinese business group, and its s ...

lignin
and cellulose that made up the gigantic trees of the period. Microbes had not evolved that could process them. The trees, after they died, simply piled up on the ground, occasionally becoming part of long-running wildfires after a lightning strike, with others very slowly degrading into
coal Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock, formed as rock strata (Argentina Argentina (), officially the Argentine Republic ( es, link=no, República Argentina), is a country located mostly in the southern half o ...

coal
. Wood-decay fungus, White rot fungus were the first living creatures to be able to process these and break them down in any reasonable quantity and timescale. Thus, fungi helped end the Carboniferous period, stopping the endless pile-up of dead trees in Earth's forests of the era and breaking trees open to release their carbon back into the atmosphere.


Extinction events


Romer's gap

The first 15 million years of the Carboniferous had very limited terrestrial fossils. This gap in the fossil record is called Romer's gap after the American palaentologist Alfred Romer. While it has long been debated whether the gap is a result of fossilisation or relates to an actual event, recent work indicates the gap period saw a drop in atmospheric oxygen levels, indicating some sort of ecological collapse. The gap saw the demise of the
Devonian The Devonian ( ) is a geologic period and system of the Paleozoic The Paleozoic (or Palaeozoic) Era ( ; from the Greek ''palaiós'' (), "old" and ''zōḗ'' (), "life", meaning "ancient life") is the earliest of three geologic eras of the P ...
fish-like ichthyostegalian labyrinthodonts, and the rise of the more advanced Temnospondyli, temnospondyl and reptiliomorphan amphibians that so typify the Carboniferous terrestrial vertebrate fauna.


Carboniferous rainforest collapse

Before the end of the Carboniferous Period, an extinction event occurred. On land this event is referred to as the
Carboniferous Rainforest Collapse The Carboniferous rainforest collapse (CRC) was a minor extinction event that occurred around 305 million years ago in the Carboniferous period. It altered the vast coal forests that covered the equatorial region of Euramerica (Europe and America). ...
(CRC). Vast tropical rainforests collapsed suddenly as the Climate variability and change, climate changed from hot and humid to cool and arid. This was likely caused by intense
glaciation A glacial period (alternatively glacial or glaciation) is an interval of time (thousands of years) within an ice age An ice age is a long period of reduction in the temperature of Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the on ...
and a drop in sea levels. The new climatic conditions were not favorable to the growth of rainforest and the animals within them. Rainforests shrank into isolated islands, surrounded by seasonally dry habitats. Towering lycopsid forests with a heterogeneous mixture of vegetation were replaced by much less diverse tree-fern dominated flora. Amphibians, the dominant vertebrates at the time, fared poorly through this event with large losses in biodiversity; reptiles continued to diversify due to key adaptations that let them survive in the drier habitat, specifically the hard-shelled egg and scales, both of which retain water better than their amphibian counterparts.


See also

* Carboniferous tetrapods *
Carboniferous Rainforest Collapse The Carboniferous rainforest collapse (CRC) was a minor extinction event that occurred around 305 million years ago in the Carboniferous period. It altered the vast coal forests that covered the equatorial region of Euramerica (Europe and America). ...
* Important Carboniferous Lagerstätten ** East Kirkton Quarry; c. 350 mya; Bathgate, Scotland ** Hamilton Quarry; 320 mya; Kansas, US ** Mazon Creek; 300 mya; Illinois, US * List of fossil sites ''(with link directory)''


References


Sources

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


External links

*
Examples of Carboniferous Fossils60+ images of Carboniferous Foraminifera
{{Authority control Carboniferous, Geological periods