THE PLIOCENE EPOCH is the uppermost subdivision of the Tertiary period (65.5 to 2.588 million years ago), and represents a geological stage from about 1.806 to 5.332 million years ago. Although the Pliocene was generally warmer than the present, this epoch is characterized by pronounced climatic oscillations that ultimately led to the characteristic cooling of the late Quaternary glacial-interglacial cycles. Pliocene climate data are inferred from oxygen isotope, dust, microfossil, and in some cases pollen data from cores collected under the flag of the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP), as well as terrestrial deposits. These records have allowed climatologists to refine the absolute chronology of the Pliocene epoch, and provide a continuous climatic record of global ice volume, sea surface temperatures, aridity, and terrestrial vegetation patterns.

The ...

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