Neogene (Cenozoic 2)

Cenozoic Era 2: Neogene PeriodNew Routes for Life

Key Events

  • The Isthmus of Panama joins North and South America, cutting off warm  currents flowing from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean.
  • The Indian subcontinent collides with Asia, pushing up the Himalayan Mountains.
  • Sea levels fall, creating land bridges between Africa and Eurasia and between Eurasia and North America.
  • The Mediterranean is created.
  • Changes in sea circulation patterns drive evolution in the oceans, with new marine mammals and fish emerging, including the largest known shark, Otodusmegalodon.
  • Grasslands and savannahs replace forests. Animals adapt to eating grass.
  • The first human ancestors (hominins) appear in the fossil record in Africa ~7 million years ago.
Illustration of life during the Neogene Period.
Illustration of life during the Neogene Period. Copyright: Vix Southgate

Facts, Debates & Trivia

  • The Neogene name is derived from the Greek for ‘New Birth’.
  • The famous fossil hominid, ‘Lucy’, lived ~3 million years ago in northern Ethiopia. The researchers who found the fossil nicknamed her after the Beatle’s song ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’.


  • The global climate becomes seasonal.  
  • Ice caps appear at the poles. The first glacial event of the Ice Age begins.
The Earth 20 million years ago. The red dot marks the location of what will eventually become Cornwall. Credit: C.R. Scotese/I. Webster


23.03 – 2.58 million years ago 

(20.45 million years)

1 metre = 10 million years

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