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Geological Time: History of the World, especially Plants: Townsville region geological history summary summarised by Doug Silke from references


Note the top column labels…. There are four geological time scales. "Eon" the coarsest, "era", "period" then "epoch" is the finest


To Era's: Cainozoic | Mesozoic | Palaeozoic | Pre-Cambrian |

Colour codes (there are no hyperlinks in table except occasional "top")
earliest fossil records, text coloured blue (Mary White)
earliest pollen records, text coloured red (Mary White)

course time scale, (Eon)

2nd (finer) time scale (Era)

3rd time scale (Period)

finest time scale (Epoch)





2,000AD-15,000BC Holocene

2,000 AD, today, temperature going up ??



2,000AD - 1.5M yrs Quaternary

Quaternary is characterised by rapid and more extreme climatic changes than in the Tertiary. Ice & snow only in Tasmania & Southern Alps


2,000AD - 66.4M yrs Cainozoic top



1700 AD, +2.5 deg C, hot moist Summers, mild winter, industrial revolution.

2,000AD - 570M yrs Phanerozoic




1408 AD, last of Greenlanders as temp down 4.5 deg C





1300-1350 AD, temperatures down, pack ice blocks northern sea routes





986 AD, +5 deg C, Vicings to Greenland, pack ice gone, Eric the Red.





450 AD, -4.5 deg C, cold drought, Huns invade Rome, start of dark ages





200 AD, +5 deg C, warm wet, Rome and China expand influence





1200 BC, major town Micene disappears after catastrophic drought, once fertile now arid





3000 BC, Mediterranean droughts gave rise to civil engineering to supply water





7000 BC, easier warm wet climate, led to early farming, writing. Mastodons, mammoths, ground sloths, sabre-tooth tigers became extinct now




15,000BC - 1.5 M yrs Pleistocene






15,000 BC, Earth warms up, +5 deg C, shape of modern world is defined





15-50,000 BC, last ice age, oceans down by 18m.





70,000 BC, almost human ancestors in caves in Europe





100,000 BC, inland Australia windy and more arid than now - dunes





120,000 BC, peak polar glaciation, sea level down 200m!!!



1.5 - 66.4 Tertiary top

1.5 -5 Pliocene

Last 2 m yrs generally considered Iceages.

Barrier reef development commenced, but only with short periods of growth and long periods of exposure. Formation of swamps, alluvial fans, soils and coastlines/dunes continued to now.

Landscape pretty much as now.

From ~25 onwards the domination of rainforest declines

5 - 24 Miocene

Continent aridity developed, but true aridity later, mid-Miocene maximum Antarctic ice cap, later sea level dropped





mid-Miocene, Acacia





mid-Miocene, ASTERACEAE

"Broadleaf Rainforest" still dominates Australia



24 - 37 Oligocene

~24, no Antarctic vegetation left, too cold, CHENOPODIACEAE




mid-Oligocene, Eucalyptus



37 - 58 Eocene





mid-Eocene, grasses POACEAE,




45 Island Australia splits off from Antarctica, Temperate migration route closed from now on




~55 ruminants (evolved to herbivores... cows, etc) evolved part of a method to dissolve cellulose. (But it seems that by itself it was useless until 25 m. years ago when another mutation occurred that benefited survival by slightly improving the digestion of cellulose.)




60 Dinosaurs extinct, Horses,

A stable flat plain (Mt Elliot/Mt Halifax protruding) had existed around Townsville for a very long time. It extended 300km out to sea from Townsville.

65 As NZ separated from Gondwana a large segment east of the present Barrier Reef out from Mackay to Cairns sank. The exposed escarpment eroded westwards, until some 2m yrs ago it formed a Range (incl. Hervey/Paluma Range)

58 - 90 Palaeocene

~58 Ayers rock to Olgas plain topographically existed as now, RESTIONACEAE, SAPINDACEAE

"Broadleaf Rainforest" dominates




100 Extensive NE Qld. erosion surface now formed, all mountains eroded away, eg. Plain still remains beyond Harvey Range, also on the Frederick Peak (Pinnacles) plateaux.




~250 to 58: Aust uniformly warm & wet, unglaciated Antarctic, then warm & wet, progressively climate not as uniform


66.4 - 245 Mesozoic top



After Palaeozoic extinctions, more modern life forms evolved. Best known as the age of the Dinosaur. Reef building Corals, flying reptiles, birds, mammals.


66.4 - 144 Cretaceous top





70 NZ and South America break migration routes with Australia & Antarctica

Australia mostly "Southern Conifers"



90 India Africa left Gondwana, Subtropical migration route closed, contact with Europe ceases. CASUARINACEAE, MYRTACEAE, Banksia




~100 seas retracted, bare land, climate warmed. Nothofagus, Dacrydium, PROTEACEAE, WINTERACEAE,




~130 sea inundation of Australia, Australia cold.

Gymnosperm and Fern community prolific, but sclerophyll developed also and survived

144- 208 Jurassic

Jurassic uniformly warm and wet worldwide, no icecaps.




~120, Ilex, Phyllocladus




~135 ARAUCARIACEAE and PODOCARPACEAE evolved from the Southern Conifers




~144 very rapid cooling




 200 Chimpanzees and rabbits are mammals, they are our cousins, whose evolution separated from ours about this time



 208 - 245 Triassic

~208 hot and dry




~250: part Angiosperms, Pandanales, Cycads, catkin bearing Angiosperms, Southern Conifers... all evolved from Algae/Fern ancestor


245 - 570 Palaeozoic top





245 - 286 Permian

245 now warm and wet again




270-258 Granitic intrusions were widespread: Mount Storth Granite, Muntalunga Range Granite, Magnetic Island Granite, Castle Hill Granite(older?). Others: Cape Cleveland formation, much of Mt Stuart, numerous smaller NW coastal areas. Then a long period of sedimentation followed.




286-270 following erosion exposing Carboniferous granites, short duration/major accumulations volcanic activity (Camboon Volcanic Arc) from Townsville to Biloela. (caused by ocean plates overlapping) Called "Julago Volcanics" Older sedimentation was followed by thick sequences. A number of remnants are evident around Townsville.




~250-350, climate change associated with Pangaea somehow perhaps, 90% species became extinct.



286 - 360 Carboniferous

late Carbonaceous, Iceage, 1/2 Australia covered by ice sheet at peak

320-286 After a long period of sedimentation, huge widespread N.Qld. volcanic explosive/cataclysmic overlapping eruption activity. A considerable thickness of these rocks, with interlayered sediments, forms parts of Hervey and Paluma Ranges near Townsville.

Towards the end of this activity granite magma batholiths recrystallised. Most are out west: the Keelbottom batholith, and several smaller intrusions around Townsville.




Marine sedimentation. There are several N.Qld. thick sedimentary basins, the closest to Townsville is the "Burdekin-Star" formed 350-300, with depths more than 4 km Forming after a major "Tasman Zone" upheaval gave rise to new basins that filled with sea water.




~280: Conifers, part Angiosperm... from Algae/Fern line



360 - 408 Devonian

Much geological activity in Australia, constantly warm and wet




360 Ferns... branched from Algae lineage




408-360 Near Townsville marine reef/sedimentation formed the Calcium and Keelbottom Creek limestone deposits (later somewhat metamorphosed)




400 plant and animal life commences on land



408 -436 Silurian

400 Pangaea, the supercontinent that later split into Laurasia and Gondwana was fairly much formed around this time



436 - 505 Ordovician





436 life still only in the sea




500-250 Geological developments were dominated by the Eastern Australian "Tasman (mountain building) Zone", a changing belt of sedimentary basins and volcanic regions. The mountains may have rivalled today's European Alps in size.




600-460 The Lolworth-Ravenswood block near Townsville was a once extensive sedimentary and volcanic sequence formed on the eastern side of the PreCambrian continent. Isolated outcrops occur on the lower slopes of the Hervey Range and Frederick Peak plateaux, main exposure is around Charters Towers.



505 - 570 Cambrian

Cells reproducing sexually (Eucariote) led to explosion of new life forms. Hard-shelled organisms, Vertebrates. All major groups of organisms had evolved by now. Fungi developed earlier than this... Plants seem to have developed later from the Algae line.



600-700 It is thought that the genome of a single celled life-form was perhaps accidentally duplicated. The redundant set was then free to mutate with far more chance of the resultant cell surviving. This type of event is thought to be a major factor enabling the evolution of multicellular beings about this time.



~800 The fluky rise in oxygen levels became sufficient to form an ozone barrier in the atmosphere. This barrier now did what previously a few inches of water did for all the life-forms in the sea, it stopped ultraviolet radiation from penetrating to the land surfaces. By this, and many other chance evolutionary processes was life able to later colonise the land.



As oxygen levels built up another life-form evolved because it could obtain unlimited food supply by devouring the plentiful numbers of single celled plant life. It then consumed oxygen to liberate the energy and CO2 from the devoured sugars. Early animals had evolved.

Again as always, most life forms could not compete. This time they were eaten into extinction, only those few early plants that could develop the most suitable defence mechanisms could survive.


570 - 2000 Pre-Cambrian top

Pre-Cambrian continent forms, inland and to North of Ingham and Innisfail, further inland at Townsville

570 - 4500 Cryptozoic



 1000 cells first become nucleate (or ~600)

Oxygen attacked early life forms. Reactive oxygen almost certainly reached a stable plateaux for some millions of years, as the "plants" that generated it as a polluting by-product were killed by the higher levels... Until one species evolved a tough outside membrane (an early form of single celled life) that could keep out the oxygen. It then could generate even higher oxygen levels that fried virtually all other life forms into extinction.


1800 Algae


2, 000, anaerobic air until now


~3,000 Blue-green Algae, Bacteria


Earth cooled sufficiently to form a crust, clouds formed, atmosphere of water vapour, CO2 and nitrogen, no oxygen. Molecules they were free to form over millions of years into a myriad of complex molecules in lakes and oceans with no bacteria to break them down. Lightning strikes have been known to form molecules that are similar to basic building blocks of life.


3, 500 oldest fossil life, Cyanobacteria (formed Stromatolites)

Anaerobic sulphur eating bacteria from boiling mud presumed to have evolved very loosely from these times, still exist to present day.. human genes are unmistakably descendants from the same ancestors

4,500 Earth formation

All doesn't start here though, prior to 4500 was more... but the evolution the earth from the universe is another question.

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summarised by Doug Silke from References
Hopley, D; 1970; Monograph series No. 1; The Geomorphology of the Burdekin Delta, North Queensland
Open Learning television series: "The Evolution of Life", 1992
Stevens,N.C.; 1972; G19 Geology and Landscape of Queensland, National Science Curriculum Materials Project.
Suzuki, D; Levine, J; 1994; Cracking the Code; Allen and Unwin, Marrickville
Trezise, D.L;Stephenson,P.J.; 1990; Rocks and Landscapes of the Townsville District
VickersRich,P;HewittRich,T; 1993; Wildlife of Gondwana
White,M.E.; The Greening Of Gondwana
Wyatt,D.H.; 1972; 1:250,000 Geological Series and notes; Townsville