Ice layer dating

During peak periods with most of the water frozen, global average temperatures were 5 to 10 degrees C (9 to 18 degrees F) below today’s temperature norms. The variation in temperatures produced glacial advances, because the cooler summers didn’t completely melt the snow.

While evolved, many vertebrates, especially large mammals, succumbed to the harsh climate conditions of this period.

Scientists identified the Pleistocene Epoch’s four key stages, or ages — Gelasian, Calabrian, Ionian and Tarantian. It was first used in 1839 by Sir Charles Lyell, a British geologist and lawyer.

As a result of Lyell’s work, the glacial theory gained acceptance between 18, and scientists came to recognize the existence of ice ages.

One of the richest sources of information about life in the Pleistocene Epoch can be found in the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, where remains of everything from insects to plant life to animals were preserved, including a partial skeleton of a female human and a nearly complete woolly mammoth.

In addition to the woolly mammoth, mammals such as saber-toothed cats (Smilodon), giant ground sloths (Megatherium) and mastodons roamed the Earth during this period.

On the ground, there were prairie grasses as well as members of the lilly, orchid and rose families.

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The flightless birds did not fare as well, as they had to compete with mammals and other creatures for limited supplies of food and water, as a good portion of the water was frozen.

Crocodiles, lizards, turtles, pythons and other reptiles also thrived during this period.

During this period, British geologist Edward Forbes aligned the period with other known ice ages.

In 2009, the International Union of Geological Sciences established the start of the Pleistocene Epoch at 2.588 million years before the present.

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