Carboniferous (Paleozoic 5)

Paleozoic Era 5: Carboniferous Period – Amphibians Rule

Key Events

  • Forests and swamps cover the land.
  • Four-legged vertebrate animals (tetrapods) diversify, developing hands and feet.
  • Amphibians dominate, butneed to return to water to lay shell-less eggs.
  • Reptiles emerge. Their shell-covered eggs mean that they can survive in dry areas of land inaccessible to amphibians.
  • The first insects evolve wings and start to fly, including giant dragonflies.
Illustration of life during the Carboniferous Period. Copyright: Vix Southgate

Facts, Debates & Trivia

  • Carboniferous means coal-bearing, as many coal beds around the world are formed during this period.
  • Tilted layers of sandstone and shale found in north Cornwall, near Bude, are formed in the Carboniferous Period.


  • Temperatures in the early Carboniferous are warm.
  • The boom in plant-life consumes carbon dioxide and temperatures fall in the late Carboniferous, leading to glacial ages.
The Earth 300 million years ago. The red dot marks the location of what will eventually become Cornwall. Credit: C.R. Scotese/I. Webster


358.9 – 298.9 million years ago

(60 million years)

1 metre = 10 million years

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