Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Geologic Time The Story of a Changing Earth
Presented by the Department of Paleobiology.
The Miocene
Contents
Epoch Overview
Terrestrial Life Throughout the Miocene
Miocene Marine Life
Shifting Continents and Changing Climates
Evidence
Skull of Hemicyon
learn more
sample
Chalicothere
Three-toed horse
Dog
Primitive baleen whale
Giant-toothed white shark
Seal
Shark-toothed whale
Snail
Oak
references and links
Foundational Concepts
Dating Methods
Earth Processes
Life Processes
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Glossary Credits Email Us


Shifting Continents and Changing Climates
The Miocene began with a warming of the climate, before the general Cenozoic cooling trend continued. The Atlantic Ocean continued widening. The northward movement of Africa, the Arabian peninsula, and the Indian subcontinent continued pushing up the Alps and the Himalaya Mountains. Mountain-building cut off the remnants of the Tethys Ocean from the Indian Ocean, and by the end of the epoch, Gibraltar was connected to Africa. Thus the Tethys Ocean was separated at both its eastern and western outlets and confined to the Mediterranean Basin. The modern Mediterranean Sea is the last remnant of this once-great ocean.

South America was still separated from North America. While the seas invaded the coastal plains of North America, the Rockies and Appalachian Mountains began uplifting again.

With the complete closure of the Tethys, circumglobal circulation of warm waters ceased. In the oceans, great gyres or circular currents brought warm water toward the poles and cold water toward the equator. Fishes and whales may have used these currents to migrate seasonally around the ocean basins. Faunal interchange between Asia and North America continued across the Bering Land Bridge, but by the late Miocene the bridge had been flooded. Essentially modern patterns of ocean and atmospheric circulation developed in the Miocene and the major landmasses came close to their present-day positions.


Epoch Overview | Terrestrial Life Throughout the Miocene | Miocene Marine Life
Shifting Continents and Changing Climates



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