Neogene Period
23.03–2.588 million years ago
Mean atmospheric O2 content over period duration ca. 21.5 Vol %[1]
(108 % of modern level)
Mean atmospheric CO2 content over period duration ca. 280 ppm[2]
(1 times pre-industrial level)
Mean surface temperature over period duration ca. 14 °C[3]
(0 °C above modern level)
Events of the Cenozoic
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-65 —
-60 —
-55 —
-50 —
-45 —
-40 —
-35 —
-30 —
-25 —
-20 —
-15 —
-10 —
-5 —
0 —
N. Amer. prairie expands[4]
First Antarctic permanent ice-sheets[5]
Holocene begins 11.5 ka ago
An approximate timescale of key Cenozoic events.
Axis scale: Ma before present.

The Neogene is a geologic period and system in the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) Geologic Timescale starting 23.03 ± 0.05 million years ago and ending 2.588 million years ago. The Neogene Period follows the Paleogene Period as the 2nd period within the Cenozoic Era and is succeeded by the Quaternary Period.

The last epoch into which the Paleogene Period is subdivided is the Oligocene Epoch. The Neogene Period is subdivided into 2 epochs, the earlier Miocene Epoch and its succeeding Pliocene Epoch. The first epoch into which the Quaternary Period is subdivided is its Pleistocene Epoch.[7]

The Neogene covers roughly 23 million years. During the Neogene mammals and birds evolved considerably. Most other forms were relatively unchanged. Some continental motion took place, the most significant event being the connection of North and South America in the late Pliocene. Climates cooled somewhat over the duration of the Neogene culminating in continental glaciations in the Quaternary Period that follows, and that saw the dawn of the genus Homo.



In ICS terminology, from upper (later, more recent) to lower (earlier):

The Pliocene Epoch is subdivided into 2 ages:

  • Piacenzian Age, preceded by
  • Zanclean Age

The Miocene Epoch is subdivided into 6 ages:

  • Messinian Age, preceded by
  • Tortonian Age
  • Serravallian Age
  • Langhian Age
  • Burdigalian Age
  • Aquitanian Age

In different geophysical regions of the world, other regional names are also used for the same or overlapping ages and other timeline subdivisions.

The terms Neogene System (formal) and upper Tertiary System (informal) describe the rocks deposited during the Neogene Period.

Climate and Geography

The continents in the Neogene were very close to their current positions. The isthmus of Panama formed, connecting North and South America. India continued to collide with Asia, forming the Himalayas. Sea levels fell, exposing land bridges between Africa and Eurasia and between Eurasia and North America.

The global climate became seasonal and continued its overall drying and cooling trend which began in the beginning of the Paleogene. The ice caps on both poles began to grow and thicken, and by the end of the period the first of a series of glaciations of the current Ice Age began.

Flora and Fauna

Marine and continental flora and fauna were fairly modern at this time. Mammals and birds continued to be the dominant terrestrial vertebrates, and took many forms as they adapted to various habitats. The first hominids, the ancestors of humans, appeared in Africa and spread into Eurasia.

In response to the cooler, seasonal climate, tropical plant species gave way to deciduous ones and grasslands replaced many forests. Grasses therefore greatly diversified, and herbivorous mammals evolved alongside it, creating the many grazing animals of today such as horses, antelope, and bison.


The Neogene traditionally ended at the end of the Pliocene Epoch, just before the older definition of the beginning of the Quaternary Period; many time scales show this division.

However, there was a movement amongst geologists (particularly Neogene Marine Geologists) to also include ongoing geological time (Quaternary) in the Neogene, while others (particularly Quaternary Terrestrial Geologists) insist the Quaternary to be a separate period of distinctly different record. The somewhat confusing terminology and disagreement amongst geologists on where to draw what hierarchical boundaries, is due to the comparatively fine divisibility of time units as time approaches the present, and due to geological preservation that causes the youngest sedimentary geological record to be preserved over a much larger area and to reflect many more environments, than the older geological record.[8] By dividing the Cenozoic Era into three (arguably two) periods (Paleogene, Neogene, Quaternary) instead of 7 epochs, the periods are more closely comparable to the duration of periods in the Mesozoic and Paleozoic eras.

The ICS once proposed that the Quaternary be considered a sub-era (sub-erathem) of the Neogene, with a beginning date of 2.588 Ma, namely the start of the Gelasian Stage. In the 2004 proposal of the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS), the Neogene would have consisted of the Miocene and Pliocene epochs.[9] The International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA) counterproposed that the Neogene and the Pliocene end at 2.588 Ma, that the Gelasian be transferred to the Pleistocene, and the Quaternary be recognized as the third period in the Cenozoic, citing key changes in Earth's climate, oceans, and biota that occurred 2.588 Ma and its correspondence to the Gauss-Matuyama magnetostratigraphic boundary.[10] In 2006 ICS and INQUA reached a compromise that made Quaternary a subera, subdividing Cenozoic into the old classical Tertiary and Quaternary, a compromise that was rejected by International Union of Geological Sciences because it split both Neogene and Pliocene in two.[11]

Following formal discussions at the International Geological Congress, Oslo Norway, August 2008,[12] the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) decided in May 2009 to make the Quaternary the youngest period of the Cenozoic Era with its base at 2.588 Mya and including the Gelasian age, which was formerly considered part of the Neogene Period and Pliocene Epoch.[7] Thus the Neogene Period ends bounding the succeeding Quaternary Peiod at 2.588 Mya.


  1. ^ Image:Sauerstoffgehalt-1000mj.svg
  2. ^ Image:Phanerozoic Carbon Dioxide.png
  3. ^ Image:All palaeotemps.png
  4. ^ Retallack, G.J. (1997). "Neogene Expansion of the North American Prairie". PALAIOS 12 (4): 380–390. doi:10.2307/3515337. JSTOR 3515337. 
  5. ^ Zachos, J.C.; Kump, L.R. (2005). "Carbon cycle feedbacks and the initiation of Antarctic glaciation in the earliest Oligocene". Global and Planetary Change 47 (1): 51–66. Bibcode 2005GPC....47...51Z. doi:10.1016/j.gloplacha.2005.01.001. 
  6. ^ Krijgsman, W.; Garcés, M.; Langereis, C.G.; Daams, R.; Van Dam, J.; Van Der Meulen, A.J.; Agustí, J.; Cabrera, L. (1996). "A new chronology for the middle to late Miocene continental record in Spain". Earth and Planetary Science Letters 142 (3-4): 367–380. Bibcode 1996E&PSL.142..367K. doi:10.1016/0012-821X(96)00109-4. 
  7. ^ a b See the 2009 version of the ICS geologic time scale
  8. ^ Tucker, M. E. (2001) Sedimentary Petrology (3rd ed.) Blackwell Science, Osney Nead, Oxford, UK, ISBN 0-632-05735-1
  9. ^ Lourens, L., Hilgen, F., Shackleton, N.J., Laskar, J., Wilson, D., (2004) “The Neogene Period”. In: Gradstein, F., Ogg, J., Smith, A.G. (Eds.), Geologic Time Scale Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  10. ^ Clague, John et al. (2006) "Open Letter by INQUA Executive Committee" Quaternary Perspective, the INQUA Newsletter International Union for Quaternary Research 16(1)
  11. ^ ICS: Consolidated Annual Report for 2006, last retrieved in 15 June 2007
  12. ^ International Geological Congress, General Proceedings for 33rd congress, Oslo, August 6–14, 2008 [1]

Neogene Period
Miocene Pliocene
Aquitanian | Burdigalian
Langhian | Serravallian
Tortonian | Messinian
Zanclean | Piacenzian
Preceded by Proterozoic Eon 542 Ma - Phanerozoic Eon - Present
542 Ma - Paleozoic Era - 251 Ma 251 Ma - Mesozoic Era - 65 Ma 65 Ma - Cenozoic Era - Present
Cambrian Ordovician Silurian Devonian Carboniferous Permian Triassic Jurassic Cretaceous Paleogene Neogene Quaternary

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  • Neogene — /nee euh jeen /, Geol. adj. 1. noting or pertaining to an interval of time corresponding to the Miocene and Pliocene epochs and accorded the status of a period when the Tertiary is considered an era. Cf. Paleogene. n. 2. the Neogene Period or… …   Universalium

  • Neogene — 1. adjective Of a geologic period within the Cenozoic era; comprises the Miocene, Pliocene, Pleistocene and Holocene epochs from about 26 million years ago to the present. 2. noun …   Wiktionary

  • neogene — ne·ò·ge·ne, ne·o·gè·ne s.m. TS geol. spec. con iniz. maiusc., la parte più recente del Cenozoico che riunisce il Miocene e il Pliocene, durata circa venti milioni di anni, nel corso della quale la crosta terrestre è venuta assumendo all incirca… …   Dizionario italiano

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