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The big issues

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Important events in the history of life

A timeline can provide additional information about life's history not visible on an evolutionary tree. These include major geologic events, climate changes, radiations of organisms into new habitats, changes in ecosystems, changes in continental positions, and widespread extinctions. Explore the timeline below to review some of the important events in life's history.

4600 Mya 3800 Mya 3500 Mya 555 Mya 500 Mya 450 Mya 420 Mya 360 Mya 4600 Mya 3800 Mya 3500 Mya 555 Mya 500 Mya 450 Mya 420 Mya 360 Mya
Important events in the history of life: 4500 to 360 Mya
4600 Mya-Earth forms
3800 Mya-DNA forms
3500 Mya-Bacteria evolves
535 Mya-Cambrian Explosion
500 Mya-Fish evolve
450 Mya-Land invertebrates evolve
420 Mya-Land plants evolve
360 Mya-Tetrapods evolve

Description of Important Events
250 Mya 248 Mya 225 Mya 130 Mya 65 Mya 4 Mya 130 Kya
250 Mya-Pangaea forms 248 Mya-Permo-Triassic Extinction 225 Mya-Dinosaurs and mammals evolve 130 Mya-Flowers evolve 65 Mya-Extinction of dinosaurs 65 Mya-Extinction of dinosaurs 4 Mya-Lucy lives 130 Kya-Modern humans evolve
Important events in the history of life: 359 Mya to Present 250 Mya 248 Mya 225 Mya 130 Mya 65 Mya 4 Mya 130 Kya

(If the timeline doesn't work, view the Text-only version)

You've reached the end of this section, but if you'd like to continue reading through Evolution 101, click the 'next' button below. Or you can go back to the Evolution 101 cover page. To learn more about the formation of the Earth, the building blocks of life, and the conditions required for life to arise, visit A Place for Life: A special astronomy exhibit of Understanding Evolution. To get a more detailed timeline of the history of life and learn more about deep time in general, visit the ChronoZoom Time Atlas of Earth History and Big History.


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More details
Read more about the origins of life on Earth with this advanced tutorial or about human evolution in this brief summary.

Evo examples
Learn more about the origin of life in context: From the origin of life to the future of biotech: The work of Andy Ellington, a research profile.

Learn more about human evolution in context: When it comes to evolution, headlines often get it wrong, a news brief with discussion questions.

Teach this
Teach your students about timelines: A long time, a classroom activity for grades K-2.

Teach your students about the history of life: What came first?, a classroom activity for grades 6-8.

Find additional lessons, activities, videos, and articles that focus on the history of life.