If the adorable animated movie is the first thing that comes into your mind, then you are not alone. Most people in our generation are not aware of what the Ice Age was, but very soon you won’t be one. We are going to help you gain insights into what the Ice Age was and how it changed the world we live in.
Let us start by defining “Ice Age” – It is a prolonged period of time of cold global temperature and recurring glacial expansion.
According to scientists, there have been 5 major Ice Ages in the 4.6 million years of Earth. We are concerned about the last Ice Age also known as the Pleistocene Age, which occurred 2.6 million years ago.
What makes this Ice Age so special? We have a list for you.
The word Pleistocene might sound strange, but it has a perfect meaning. Pleisto means most and Cene means new, so the name is just pointing towards the most recent Ice Age.
The Pleistocene Age is considered the most important time in the history of evolution as it marks the emergence of Homo Sapiens 2.3 million years ago. In the beginning of the period, the Paranthropus species were present, this specie gradually evolved into the present-day Homo Sapiens.
What makes this Ice Age even more relevant to our lives is that it was followed by Holocene Epoch, which is the current age we are living in. Basically, the end of Ice Age created a perfect world for us.
The Geographic Features
During the Pleistocene Age Antarctica, Europe and America were covered with glaciers. Remains of which can still be found in Antarctica. The Earth’s crust went through major changes during this period due to Dansgaard-Oeschger cycles. DO cycles are basically a series of warming and cooling oscillations. One such change was responsible for the formation of the continents we know today.
This Ice Age has been divided into four stages, namely;
Gelasian, Calabrian, Ionian, and Tarantian.
(1) Gelasian: The Gelasian is the earliest age of the Pleistocene Epoch. It is also known as lower Plestocene and spans between 2.588 million years ago and 1.806 million years ago.
(2) Calabrian: Calabrian is the second subdivision of the Pleistocene Period. This period lasted between 1.8 million years ago to years1.019 million years. The end of this time is known as the last magnetic pole reversal.
(3) Ionian: The Ionian Stage is the third stage of the Pleistocene Period and is known as the Middle Pleistocene. There has been no established Global Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP) to define this stage’s time period.
(4) Tarantian: Tarantian Stage is the last stage which is also called Upper Pleistocene. The estimated time period.
The weather of the Pleistocene Age followed the cycle of summers and winters. The intensity of the season varied form the current seasons. The summers during this period were cool enough to not melt the snow and rain rarely made an appearance. The winters were harsh all across the globe, with the average temperature below zero in the season.
The average temperature during the age was 5-10 C globally, yes that cold. Due to the cold temperatures, it is obvious that animals habitual to cold weather thrived during this period.
The Life During the Period
The life during this Age supported a wide variety of species. All of the vertebrates became extinct during the Pleistocene Age, while dogs and cats ruled all over. Other animals that made it includes various birds and some reptiles like pythons and crocodiles. A common misconception is that dinosaurs prevailed during this period. The truth is that they became extinct 60 million years before the Pleistocene age in the Cretaceous Period. Vegetation was limited to only some areas as the cold weather didn’t support much plant life and only plant that can survive harsh winters bloomed.
There are various species that are unknown to us as they became extinct in the Pleistocene Epoch. Some of them are:
- Asian land mammal which includes Zhoukoudianian, Nihewanian, and Yushean.
- European land mammal ages which include Gelasian
- North American land mammal which includes include Blancan, Irvingtonian, and Rancholabrean in millions of years. The Blancan extends significantly back into the Pliocene.
- South American land mammal which includes Uquian, Ensenadan, and Lujanian.
The End of the Period
The End of Pleistocene Age Marks an age of mass extinction. Various theories have been presented which provide different causes for the end of the Pleistocene Age. The various probable causes include climate change, human destruction, etc. The most famous theory would be meteor crash with the Earth. A meteor that marks the end of the Ice Age and the start of “Us”.
We hope the next time someone mentions Ice Age you won’t think of the Disney Movie.