Paleogene (Cenozoic 1)

Cenozoic Era – Time for Ancient Life

The Cenozoic Era, named after the Greek for ‘New Life’, is split into three geological periods.

Cenozoic Era 1: Paleogene Period – Mammals and Birds Flourish

Key Events

  • Continents drift towards their current positions.
  • With the dinosaurs extinct, mammals and birds become dominant.
  • Mammals evolve, grow larger and diversify:
    • Species including the first rhinos, horses, camels, bears, dogs and cats occupy the land.
    • The first primates (relatives of humans) take to the trees.
    • Cetaceans (which include whales and dolphins) evolve in the seas.
  • Plants adapt to the cool conditions, with the first grasses appearing.
Illustration of life during the Paleogene Period.
Illustration of life during the Paleogene Period. Copyright: Vix Southgate

Facts, Debates & Trivia

  • The Paleogene name is derived from the Greek for ‘Old Birth’.
  • The success of mammals is attributed to their development of the placenta, which enablesthem to protect and nourish babies in the womb and give birth to relatively mature infants. 


  • The climate is warm for the first 30 millions years.
  • During the remaining time, it becomes cool and dry.
The Earth 50 million years ago. The red dot marks the location of what will eventually become Cornwall. Credit: C.R. Scotese/I. Webster


201.3 – 145.0 million years ago 

(56.3 million years)

1 metre = 10 million years

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