The Phanerozoic (occasionally Phanaerozoic) Eon is the period of geologic time during which abundant animal life has existed. It covers roughly 545 million years and goes back to the time when diverse hard-shelled animals first appeared. The Phanerozoic eon is still ongoing. Its name derives from the Greek meaning visible life, referring to the large size of organisms since the Cambrian explosion. The time previous to the start of the Phanerozoic is called Precambrian (now divided into the Hadean, Archaean and Proterozoic eons). The exact time of the boundary between the Phanerozoic and the Precambrian is slightly uncertain. In the 19th Century, the boundary was set at the first abundant metazoan fossils. But several hundred taxa of Precambrian metazoa have been identified since systematic study of those forms started in the 1950s. Most geologists and paleontologists would probably set the Precambrian-Phanerozoic boundary either at the classic point where the first trilobites and archaeocyatha appear; at the first appearance of a complex feeding burrow called Trichophycus pedum; or at the first appearance of a group of small, generally disarticulated, armored forms termed 'the small shelly fauna'. The three different dividing points are within a few million years of each other.
The Phanerozoic is divided into three eras — Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic. In the older literature, the term Phanerozoic is generally used as a label for the time period of interest to paleontologists. The term seems to be falling into disuse in more modern literature.
The time span of the Phanerozoic includes the rapid emergence of a number of animal phyla; the evolution of these phyla into diverse forms; the emergence of terrestrial plants; the development of complex plants; the evolution of fish; the emergence of terrestrial animals; and the development of modern faunas. During the period covered, continents drifted about, eventually collected into a single landmass known as Pangea and then split up into the current continental landmasses.
|Paleozoic era||Mesozoic era||Cenozoic era|