Page:The Outline of History Vol 1.djvu/76

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52
THE OUTLINE OF HISTORY

of the record, this Cainozoic period, a gigantic crumpling of the earth's crust and an upheaval of mountain ranges was in progress. The Alps, the Andes, the Himalayas, are all Cainozoic mountain ranges; the background of an early Cainozoic scene, to be typical, should display an active volcano or so. It must have been an age of great earthquakes.

Geologists make certain main divisions of the Cainozoic period, and it will be convenient to name them here and to indicate their climate. First comes the Eocene (dawn of recent life), an age of exceptional warmth in the world's history, subdivided into an older and newer Eocene; then the Oligocene (but little of recent life), in which the climate was still equable. The Miocene (with living species still in a minority) was the great age of mountain building, and the general temperature was falling. In the Pliocene (more living than extinct species), climate was very much at its present phase; but with the Pleistocene (a great majority of living species) there set in a long period of extreme conditions—it was the Great Ice Age. Glaciers spread from the poles towards the equator, until England to the Thames was covered in ice. Thereafter to our own time came a period of partial recovery.

 

§ 2

In the forests and following the grass over the Eocene plains there appeared for the first time a variety and abundance of mammals. Before we proceed to any description of these mammals, it may be well to note in general terms what a mammal is.

From the appearance of the vertebrated animals in the Lower Palæozoic Age, when the fish first swarmed out into the sea, there has been a steady progressive development of vertebrated creatures. A fish is a vertebrated animal that breathes by gills and can live only in water. An amphibian may be described as a fish that has added to its gill-breathing the power of breathing air with its swimming-bladder in adult life, and that has also developed limbs with five toes to them in place of the fins of a fish. A tadpole is for a time a fish; it becomes a land creature as it develops. A reptile is a further stage in this detachment from water; it is an amphibian that is no longer amphibious; it passes through its tadpole stage—its fish stage, that is—in an