Geologic Time Scale: Cretaceous Period
(145.0 to 66 million years ago)
The Cretaceous Period is the third and final period of the Mesozoic and the longest period of the Phanerozoic Eon. The period as first defined by Belgian geologist Jean d’Omalius d’Halloy in 1822 as the Terrain Cretace, using starta (layers) in the Paris Basin and names for the extensive beds of chalk(calcium carbonate deposited by the shells of marine invertebrates, principally coccoliths), found in the upper Cretaceous of Western Europe. The name is derived from the Latin creta meaning “chalk”, which is abundant in the later half of the period.
During the Cretaceous, the late-Paleozoic-to-early-Mesozoic supercontinent of Pangaea completed its tectonic breakup into the present-day continents, although their positions were substantially different at the time. The Earth’s Climate was warmer than today, and sea level was much higher. The end of the Cretaceous period (along with the Mesozoic) ended with the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event (formerly known as the KT bountary).
Late Cretaceous: 72.1 to 66.0 million years ago
The Maastrichtian was the last stage, age, or epoch of the late or upper Cretaceous period. The Maastrichtian was first identified in 1849 by Belgian geologist Andre Hubert Dumont. The name derived from studying rock strata (layers) from the Chalk Group near the Dutch town of Maastricht. was formally named the Maastricht Formation by Dumont. The Masstrichtian ends with the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event.
Famous dinosaurs of this time in North America are Tyrannosaurus rex (“T. rex“), Triceratops, Torosaurus, Ankylosaurus, Edmontosaurus, and the Pterosaur Quetzalcoatlus.
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Late Cretaceous: 83.6 to 72.1 million years ago
The Campanian Epoch is the second to last age in the Late Cretaceous Period. The time is known for high dinosaur diversity and rising sea levels all around the world. The most well know of these seas was the North American western interior seaway that split the continent into a eastern region named Appalachia and western named Laramidia. In 1857 Henri Coquand named the Campainian after the western French village of Champagne.
Famous dinosaurs from this time include Asia’s Therizinosaurus, Velociraptor, Oviraptor, and Protoceratops. In North America Parasaurolophus, Albertosaurus, Gorgosaurus, and Pentaceratops.
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Late Cretaceous: 86.3 to 83.6 million years ago
The Santonian Epoch was named in 1857 by French geologist Henri Copuand after the city of Saintes. The Santonian is defined by time specfic bivalves specimen in Spain.
There are very few dinosaurs known from the Santonian and the previous Coniacian stage, unlike the Campanian that follows.
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Late Cretaceous: 89.8 to 83.6 million years ago
The Coniacian Epoch was named in 1857 by French geologist Henri Coquand after the city of Cognac in the French region of Saintonge.
The Coniacian like the Santonian that follows have very few dinosaurs. The animals known from this time shown here are based on fossil representation from before and after the Coniacian Stage.
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Late Cretaceous: 93.9 to 89.8 million years ago
The Turonian Epoch was named in 1842 by French paleontologist Alcide d’Orbigny, after the French city of Tours in a region of Touraine.
Famous dinosaurs from this time in North America includes Zuniceratops and the therizinosaur Nothronychus. Megaraptor from South America.
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Late Cretaceous: 100.5 to 93.9 million years ago
The Cenomanian Epoch is the first stage of the late or upper Cretaceous Period. The Cenomanian was named in 1847 by French paleontologist Alcide d’Orbigny after the French city of Le Mans Cenomanum.
In North America we see large theropods like Siats and the small tyrannosaur Moros intrepitus.
While South America has the large charcharodontosaurs Giganotosaurs and Mapusaurus, the abelisaur Skorpiovenator and the giant titanosaur Argentinosaurus.
Africa famous fauna include Spinosaurus, Carcharodontosaurus, Rugops, Deltadromeus, Ouranosaurus, Paralititan, and the crocodile like Kaprosuchus.
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Early Cretaceous: 113.0 to 100.5 million years ago
The Albian is the final stage of the early or lower Cretaceous Period. The name was first purposed in 1842 by Alcide d’Orbigny after Alba, the Latin name for the River Aube in France.
North Amiercan dinosaurs include the theropods Acrocanthosaurus and Deinonychus, the ornithopods Iguanodon and Tenontosaurus, and Nodosaurs Saurolpelta, Gastonia, and the mummified Borealopelta.
South America dinosaurs include Irritator, Patagotitan, and Agustinia. Pterosaurs like Tapejara, Tupuxuara, Tropeognathus, and Pterodaustro.
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Early Cretaceous: 121.4 to 113.0 million years ago
The Aptian is named after the small city of Apt in the Province region of France in 1840 by French paleontologist Alcide d’Orbigny.
Asia hosted the famous Liaoning China’s Yixian Formation: Yutyrannus, Sinosauropteryx, Caudipteryx, Beipiaosaurus, and Psittacosaurus. And Jiuftang Formation: Sinotyrannus, Microraptor, Psittacosaurus, and the pterosaur Guidraco.
Early Cretaceous African dinosaurs Suchomimus, Eocarcharia, Nigersaurus, Ouranosaurus, and the crocodile like Sarcosuchus.
Australian fauna includes the famous dinosaur genera Australovenator, Minmi, Leaellynasaurus, Serendipaceratops, and the marine reptile Kronosaurus.
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Early Cretaceous: 129.4 to 121.4 million years ago
The Berrmian Epoch was named in 1873 by Henri Coquand after the village of Berreme, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence in France. The Bermian Stage is when we start to see more famous Cretaceous dinosaurs.
In North America we see Utahraptor and Gastonia as well as the early therizinosaur Falcarius.
In England the Isle of Wright fauna (Wessex Formation) include theropods Neovenator, Baryonyx, Eotyrannus, ornithopods Iguanodon, Mantellisaurus, Hypsilophodon, and the nodosaur Polacanthus.
What we now call Asia host Japan’s ‘s neovenatorid Fukiraptor, China’s Dilong, Sinosauropteryx, and the first appreance of Psittacosaurus and the therizinosaur Nashiungosaurus.
South American host the first appreance of the strange sauropod Amargosaurus.
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Early Cretaceous: 132.6 to 129.4 million years ago
The Hauterivian Epoch was named by Swiss geologist Eugene Renevier in 1873 after the lake (Neuchatel) side Swiss town of Hauterive.
The species depicted on this page are based on fossil finds that span before and after this time. There are very few dinosaur toys and models from this time. Noable dinosaurs include the spinosaurid Baryonyx from Europe, the megalosaurid Afroventor from Africa, and the stegosaurid Wurhosaurus from China and Mongolia.
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Early Cretaceous: 139.8 to 132.2 million years ago
The Valanginian Epoch was first named in 1853 by Edouard Desor after the Valangin, a small town north of Neuchatel in the Jura Mountains of Switzerland. THe oldest angiospermae (flowering plants) cant be dated back to the late Valanginian.