The Neogene is a geologic period and system that spans 20.45 million years from the end of the Paleogene Period 23.03 million years ago (Mya) to the beginning of the present Quaternary Period 2.58 Mya. The Neogene is sub-divided into two epochs, the earlier Miocene and the later Pliocene. Some geologists assert that the Neogene cannot be clearly delineated from the modern geological period, the Quaternary.
During this period, mammals and birds continued to evolve into roughly modern forms, while other groups of life remained relatively unchanged. Early hominids, the ancestors of humans, appeared in Africa near the end of the period. Some continental movement took place, the most significant event being the connection of North and South America at the Isthmus of Panama, late in the Pliocene. This cut off the warm ocean currents from the Pacific to the Atlantic ocean, leaving only the Gulf Stream to transfer heat to the Arctic Ocean. The global climate cooled considerably over the course of the Neogene, culminating in a series of continental glaciations in the Quaternary Period that follows.
The continents in the Neogene were very close to their current positions. The Isthmus of Panama formed, connecting North and South America. The Indian subcontinent continued to collide with Asia, forming the Himalayas. Sea levels fell, creating land bridges between Africa and Eurasia and between Eurasia and North America.
The global climate became seasonal and continued an overall drying and cooling trend which began at the start of the Paleogene. The ice caps on both poles began to grow and thicken, and by the end of the period the first of a series of glaciations of the current Ice Age began.
Flora and fauna
Marine and continental flora and fauna have a modern appearance. The reptile group Choristodera became extinct in the early part of the period, while the amphibians known as Allocaudata disappeared at the end. Mammals and birds continued to be the dominant terrestrial vertebrates, and took many forms as they adapted to various habitats. The first hominids, the ancestors of humans, appeared in Africa and spread into Eurasia.
In response to the cooler, seasonal climate, tropical plant species gave way to deciduous ones and grasslands replaced many forests. Grasses therefore greatly diversified, and herbivorous mammals evolved alongside it, creating the many grazing animals of today such as horses, antelope, and bison.