Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Geologic Time The Story of a Changing Earth
Presented by the Department of Paleobiology.
The Devonian
Contents
Overview
Life in the Devonian Seas
Terrestrial Habitats Conquered
The Devonian Extinction
and Tectonics during the Devonian
Evidence
Leaf and wood of Archaeopteris.
learn more
sample
Placoderm
Ammonite
Shark
Brachiopods
Trilobites
Centipede
Lobe-finned fish
Amphibian skull
references and links
Foundational Concepts
Dating Methods
Earth Processes
Life Processes
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OVERVIEW
Devonian 416 - 359 mya
Defining Characteristics:
  • • “Age of Fishes”
  • • diverse land invertebrates and first land vertebrates
  • • diversification of vascular plants
  • • Map of the Devonian World
Secondary Characteristics:
  • • Late Devonian extinction
  • • first true trees

The recognition of the Devonian Period was the result of great debate on the part of many nineteenth-century European geologists. The debate centered on whether the “Old Red Sandstone”—the rock layers above the Silurian (and therefore younger)—actually represented a distinct system or merely a later stage of the Silurian. In 1839, Roderick Murchison and Adam Sedgwick collaborated to name the Devonian, which they based on rock exposures in Devonshire, England. Devonian-age rocks are also common in Scotland, central Pennsylvania, western New York, and Greenland, but they have been found on all continents.

During the Devonian, most of Earth’s landmasses formed two neighboring supercontinents, Gondwana and Euramerica. The rest of the Earth’s surface was covered by a vast ocean. The Devonian world was populated by now-extinct, very primitive plants and animals, so it looked much different from our world today. In the marine realm, many members of the Paleozoic Fauna continued to diversify. On land, vascular plants and arthropods formed diverse terrestrial ecosystems, while the earliest tetrapods appeared in shallow waters nearby.




Overview | Life in the Devonian Seas | Terrestrial Habitats Conquered
The Devonian Extinction | Climate and Tectonics during the Devonian



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