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The Neogene is a geologic period and system in the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) Geologic Timescale starting 23.03 ± 0.05 million years ago and ending 2.588 million years ago. The Neogene Period follows the Paleogene Period as the 2nd period within the Cenozoic Era and is succeeded by the Quaternary Period.

The last epoch into which the Paleogene Period is subdivided is its Oligocene Epoch. The Neogene Period is subdivided into 2 epochs, the earlier Miocene Epoch and its succeeding Pliocene Epoch. The first epoch into which the Quaternary Period is subdivided is its Pleistocene Epoch.[7]

In ICS terminology, from upper (later, more recent) to lower (earlier):

The Pliocene Epoch is subdivided into 2 ages:

  • Piacenzian Age, preceded by
  • Zanclean Age

The Miocene Epoch is subdivided into 6 ages:

  • Messinian Age, preceded by
  • Tortonian Age
  • Serravallian Age
  • Langhian Age
  • Burdigalian Age
  • Aquitanian Age

In different geophysical regions of the world, other regional names are also used for the same or overlapping ages and other timeline subdivisions.

The terms Neogene System (formal) and upper Tertiary System (informal) describe the rocks deposited during the Neogene Period.

The Neogene covers roughly 23 million years. During the Neogene mammals and birds evolved considerably. Most other forms were relatively unchanged. Some continental motion took place, the most significant event being the connection of North and South America in the late Pliocene. Climates cooled somewhat over the duration of the Neogene culminating in continental glaciations in the Quaternary Period that follows, and that saw the dawn of the genus Homo.

Former period parameters controversy resolved as of the ICS 2009 Geologic Timetable

The Neogene traditionally ended at the end of the Pliocene Epoch, just before the older definition of the beginning of the Quaternary Period; many time scales show this division.

However, there was a movement amongst geologists (particularly Neogene Marine Geologists) to also include ongoing geological time (Quaternary) in the Neogene, while others (particularly Quaternary Terrestrial Geologists) insist the Quaternary to be a separate period of distinctly different record. The somewhat confusing terminology and disagreement amongst geologists on where to draw what hierarchical boundaries, is due to the comparatively fine divisibility of time units as time approaches the present, and due to geological preservation that causes the youngest sedimentary geological record to be preserved over a much larger area and to reflect many more environments, than the older geological record.[8] By dividing the Cenozoic Era into three (arguably two) periods (Paleogene, Neogene, Quaternary) instead of 7 epochs, the periods are more closely comparable to the duration of periods in the Mesozoic and Paleozoic eras.

The ICS once proposed that the Quaternary be considered a sub-era (sub-erathem) of the Neogene, with a beginning date of 2.588 Ma, namely the start of the Gelasian Stage. In the 2004 proposal of the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS), the Neogene would have consisted of the Miocene and Pliocene epochs.[9] The International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA) counterproposed that the Neogene and the Pliocene end at 2.588 Ma, that the Gelasian be transferred to the Pleistocene, and the Quaternary be recognized as the third period in the Cenozoic, citing key changes in Earth's climate, oceans, and biota that occurred 2.588 Ma and its correspondence to the Gauss-Matuyama magnetostratigraphic boundary.[10] In 2006 ICS and INQUA reached a compromise that made Quaternary a subera, subdividing Cenozoic into the old classical Tertiary and Quaternary, a compromise that was rejected by International Union of Geological Sciences because it split both Neogene and Pliocene in two.[11]

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