What Landscape Existed During The Carboniferous Period?


Characteristic of the Carboniferous period (from about 360 million to 300 million years ago) were its dense and swampy forests, which gave rise to large deposits of peat. Over the eons the peat transformed into rich coal stores in Western Europe and North America.


The North American coals of the Carboniferous period were formed in the tropical climate of the northern landmass (Laurasia) which was relatively hot and humid. On the contrary, the Permian period that followed the Carboniferous, had a much cooler climate.

The Carboniferous Period + Fossils

Carboniferous Period

The Great Coal Forests of the Carboniferous

Frequently Asked Questions

), understory plants, and epiphytes (growing on other plants). The seed ferns were early seed plants that were a component of the forest understory.

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The Carboniferous Period is formally divided into two major subdivisions—the Mississippian (358.9 to 323.2 million years ago) and the Pennsylvanian (323.2 to 298.9 million years ago) subperiods—their rocks recognized chronostratigraphically as subsystems by international agreement.

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The Carboniferous was marked by the progressive formation of the supercontinent Pangea. The present day Northern Hemisphere landmasses moved towards the equator to form Laurasia and to join the large Southern Hemisphere landmass Gondwana.

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Carboniferous coal was produced by bark-bearing trees that grew in vast lowland swamp forests. Vegetation included giant club mosses, tree ferns, great horsetails, and towering trees with strap-shaped leaves.

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The evolution of reptiles was spurred by the increasingly cold, dry climate of the late Carboniferous period. One of the earliest reptiles yet identified, Hylonomus, appeared about 315 million years ago, and the giant (almost 10 feet long) Ophiacodon only a few million years later.

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Perhaps the most well-known attribute of the Carboniferous period, coal formation was possible because of the continuous peat accumulation from this era. According to Brittanica, more coal was formed during Pennsylvanian epoch of the Carboniferous period than at any other time in the entire geologic record.

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In the Nova Scotian tree trunks land snails (Archaeozonites, Dendropupa) have been found. The late Carboniferous giant dragonfly-like insect Meganeura grew to wingspans of 75 cm (30 in). The gigantic Pulmonoscorpius from the early Carboniferous reached a length of up to 70 cm (28 in).

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