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
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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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Terrestrial Life Throughout the Miocene
Horses had begun to diversify early in the Neogene, but most of these species were browsing animals with low-crowned teeth. Their short legs were well suited to walking through closed, forest-like environments. However, during the middle Miocene, one group of these horses evolved durable teeth that allowed them to graze (eat grasses); their high tooth crowns were better able to withstand the tough, dusty grit on many grasses. Other lines of browsing horses became extinct before the end of the Miocene. Grazing horses diversified into several different forms, but only two of these survived past the Miocene: a three-toed lineage that became extinct in the ice ages, and a single-toed lineage that gave rise to modern horses and zebras.

In the Great Plains and Asian steppes, grasses dominated the landscape, with forests confined to stream courses and wet areas. In wetter regions such as eastern North America, forests were dominant. Grazers became more common than browsers among the mammals, with ruminants enjoying particular success. Elephant-like gomphotheres were the largest Miocene land mammals in North America. Although horned and hornless ruminant mammals also diversified, many species became extinct by the end of the Miocene. Deer and giraffes flourished alongside early mastodont elephants. The odd chalicotheres, clawed perissodactyl ungulates, also appeared, as did our own near ancestors in Africa, the first anthropoid apes.


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



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