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Informal division of geologic time spanning the interval between about 65.5 and 2.6 million years ago. Officially, it has been replaced by the Paleogene Period (65.5–23 million years ago) and the Neogene Period (23–2.6 million years ago). It constituted the first of the two periods of the Cenozoic Era, the second being the Quaternary. The Tertiary was made up of five subdivisions: (from oldest to youngest) the Paleocene, Eocene, Oligocene, Miocene, and Pliocene epochs. During most of the Tertiary the spatial distribution of the major continents was largely similar to that of today. Emergence and submergence of land bridges between continents critically affected the distribution of both terrestrial and marine animals and plants. Virtually all the existing major mountain ranges were formed either partly or wholly during the Tertiary.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Tertiary Period, visit Britannica.com.
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