The Pliocene is the fifth epoch of the Cenozoic. The epoch started around five million years ago and lasted almost three and a half million years. It is during the Pliocene that the first bipedal ancestors of humans are known to have evolved. Dramatic cooling and a drop in sea level impacted both marine and terrestrial life at the start of the epoch. The name Pliocene means "more recent” and this were the most recent epoch of Tertiary period, lasting from about 5 to 2 million years ago. Compared to previous epochs this was a relatively brief period, "only" 3 million years. During this time the world became much more like it is today, with ice caps, modern mammals, relatively modern geography, and the evolution of prehistoric man ("ape man") ( see figure 1). “The Pliocene was a time of global cooling after the warmer Miocene. The cooling and drying of the global environment may have contributed to the enormous spread of grasslands and savannas during this time. The change in vegetation undoubtedly was a major factor in the rise of long-legged grazers who came to live in these areas. Additionally, the Panamanian land-bridge between North and South America appeared during the Pliocene, allowing migrations of plants and animals into new habitats. Of even greater impact was the accumulation of ice at the poles, which would lead to the extinction of most species living there, as well as the advance of glaciers and ice ages of the Late Pliocene and the following Pleistocene.” (Palmer 1999) The world was approaching that of today, and continents had taken up their present-day positions. During this time, India collided with Asia and gave rise to the Himalayan Mountains, the Himalayan uplift triggering a great global cooling (or accelerating the already unfolding cooling process) The Pliocene saw the continuation of the climatic cooling that had began in the Miocene, with subtropical regions retreating equatorially, the beginning of the large ice caps, especially in...
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