The Eden Valley in Cumbria, UK during the Pleistocene period

Pleistocene epoch

During the Pleistocene, glaciers came and went, resulting in a series of ice ages punctuated by warmer periods. There were at least 20 cycles of this advance and retreat. During the ice ages, global temperatures were 5 degrees centigrade cooler than today and it was much drier, since much of the world's water was locked up in massive ice sheets. The expansion of the deserts and the action of glaciers grinding up rocks meant that dust storms would have been a lot more common in the Pleistocene than they are now. Our species evolved during this epoch.

Began: 2.6 million years ago

Ended: 11.7 thousand years ago

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What the Earth was like

Ice age Ice age
The last ice age hasn't ended, the climate has just warmed up a bit causing the ice sheets to retreat. When the ice was more extensive, our climate was very different.

Causes of extinctions

During this period the following extinction level events are thought to have occurred.

Climate change Climate change
Earth's climate is not constant. Over geological time, the Earth's dominant climate has gone from ice age to tropical heat and from steamy jungles to searing deserts.

Types of fossils formed in this period

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