Carboniferous period


Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical.
Related to Carboniferous period: Permian period

See also: Geologic Timescale (table)Geologic Timescale
Era Period Epoch Approximate duration
(millions of years)
Approximate number of years ago
(millions of years)

Cenozoic Quaternary Holocene 10,000 years ago to the present  
Pleistocene 2 .
..... Click the link for more information.

Carboniferous period

(kärbənĭf`ərəs), fifth period of the Paleozoic eraPaleozoic era
, a major division (era) of geologic time (see Geologic Timescale, table) occurring between 570 to 240 million years ago. It is subdivided into six periods, the Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous, and Permian (see each listed individually).
..... Click the link for more information.
 of geologic time (see Geologic TimescaleGeologic Timescale
Era Period Epoch Approximate duration
(millions of years)
Approximate number of years ago
(millions of years)

Cenozoic Quaternary Holocene 10,000 years ago to the present  
Pleistocene 2 .
..... Click the link for more information.
, table), from 350 to 290 million years ago.

Historical Geology of the Period

The Carboniferous period was marked by vast, coal-forming swamps (see also bogbog,
very old lake without inlet or outlet that becomes acid and is gradually overgrown with a characteristic vegetation (see swamp). Peat moss, or sphagnum, grows around the edge of the open water of a bog (peat is obtained from old bogs) and out on the surface.
..... Click the link for more information.
) and a succession of changes in the earth's surface that, continuing into the Permian periodPermian period
[from Perm, Russia], sixth and last period of the Paleozoic era (see Geologic Timescale, table) from 250 to 290 million years ago. Historical Geology of the Period
The Lower Permian
..... Click the link for more information.
, ended the Paleozoic era. The Carboniferous is often split into two divisions, the Mississippian and the Pennsylvanian; in the United States the break in the geologic sequence is so sharp that each division is commonly considered an independent period.

The Lower Carboniferous Period

In the Lower Carboniferous, or Mississippian, period, the submersion—on several occasions—of the interior of North America under shallow seas resulted in the formation of limestone, shale, and sandstone. In the Appalachian region, especially in Pennsylvania, great deposits of sandstone and shale were laid down by the erosion products from the eastern coastal highlands. In the far west the Rocky Mt. region was covered by shallow seas that deposited the Madison and Redwall limestones of the Grand Canyon.

The Lower Carboniferous in Europe was a period of submergence and great volcanic activity. E of the Rhine, shales, sandstones, and conglomerates were deposited; and in Russia, the Coal Measures formed. The close of the Lower Carboniferous was marked by mountain building in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, the S Appalachian region, the SW United States, and Europe.

The Upper Carboniferous Period

In the Upper Carboniferous, or Pennsylvanian, period, there was at least one great submergence. In the E United States great deltas of sediments, now represented by the Pottsville conglomerate, were formed during the early Pennsylvanian. In Kansas, Nebraska, Arkansas, and Texas, the Pennsylvanian beds are chiefly shale, sandstone, and coal; over the Cordilleran (Rocky Mountain) region, marine limestone, with little coal; on the Pacific coast from California to Alaska, limestone and shale. The sea level also oscillated during the period and caused the formation of great marshes with extensive vegetation that was later transformed into coal, with Pennsylvanian strata containing the largest U.S. coal deposits. The Pennsylvanian coal fields of North America include the anthracite field of E Pennsylvania; the Appalachian field, from Pennsylvania to Alabama; the Michigan field; the eastern interior field, in Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky; the western interior and southwestern field, stretching from Iowa to Texas; the Rhode Island field; and the Acadian field of SE Canada.

In the Upper Carboniferous of Western Europe, the Millstone Grit (the equivalent to the Pottsville conglomerate) is followed by the Coal Measures, which include the Welsh, English, Belgian, Westphalian, and Saar Basin fields. In the Mediterranean region and parts of Asia, the Upper Carboniferous environment resembled that of W North America.

The Upper Carboniferous was a period of marked disturbances caused by collisions of crustal plates. Gondwanaland, the supercontinent containing the continents of Africa and S America, had formed; Euramerica, part of Europe and N America, had fused into a continent to the north; and Angara, today's Asia, was also to the north of Gondwanaland. In Europe the Paleozoic Alps were thrust up; in Asia, the Altai and the Tian Shan; in North America, the Arbuckle and Wichita mts. and the ancestral S Rockies. The Indian peninsula became an active site of deposition; in the Himalayan geosyncline and much of China, mountain building was dominant. Crustal movements in the Andean geosyncline of South America affected the pattern of sedimentation over much of the continent.

Evolution of Plant and Animal Life

The plant life of the Carboniferous period was extensive and luxuriant, especially during the Pennsylvanian. It included ferns and fernlike trees; giant horsetails, called calamites; club mosses, or lycopods, such as Lepidodendron and Sigillaria; seed ferns; and cordaites, or primitive conifers. Land animals included primitive amphibians, reptiles (which first appeared in the Upper Carboniferous), spiders, millipedes, land snails, scorpions, enormous dragonflies, and more than 800 kinds of cockroaches. The inland waters were inhabited by fishes, clams, and various crustaceans; the oceans, by mollusks, crinoids, sea urchins, and one-celled foraminifera.

References in periodicals archive ?
The Brymbo fossils date from the carboniferous period, before flowering plants.
The Museum, off Wakefield Road, is to recreate a 300 million-year-old forest using fossils from the Carboniferous period.
The fossil forest, discovered during clean-up works at the Brymbo steelworks site, is the most comprehensive record of Carboniferous Period plantlife to be excavated.
This isn't science fiction--it's our world at the end of the Carboniferous period, about 300 million years ago.
This contrasts with the distribution of the species in the Late Carboniferous Period of West and Central Europe, where it ranges from the Duckmantian to the top of the Westphalian D as an index for the Stephanian (summary: Josten 1991).
In the Carboniferous period (296-360 million years ago) the south of the county was deltaic mudflats and north of Coventry lay swamp forest, full of trees, ferns and abundant life, including dragonflies with six- foot wing spans.
But there is a yawning gap between that time and the appearance of fully terrestrial animals in the late Carboniferous Period, about 335million years ago.
Road tax is just pounds 115 thanks to a carboniferous period of 134g/km.
But between the latest Devonian Period and the subsequent Carboniferous period, placoderms disappeared and ray-finned fishes rapidly replaced lobe-finned fishes as the dominant group, a demographic shift that persists to today.
The arthropods left the oceans by the Carboniferous Period (345 million years ago) and colonised the land.
Before this animal's time, the early Carboniferous period, vertebrates had spent more than 160 million years underwater, with only the most fleeting forays onto the land.