Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals Author:Graham Wellfare B Sc Prehistoric Time: It is easier to talk about the passing of millions of years than it is to imagine how vast these long spans of time really are. In order to see how the various ages of the Earth compare with each other, scientists who study rocks and fossils, called geologists, sometimes use what is called a geological clock. — This is how a geo... more »logical clock is drawn up: The Earth is thought to have existed for about forty five hundred million years. If you imagine that huge length of time to be just one hour on a clock, then all forms of life have existed for only fifteen to twenty minutes of that hour; sea creatures for about eight minutes; land animals for less than five minutes; mammals have spent a mere two and a half minutes on the Earth and man and his ancestors; only about one second. To bring history, as written by man, into this diagram would be very difficult. By this clock, William the Conqueror invaded England in less than one thousandth of a second ago!
In order to make the dating of fossils easier, the earliest geologists divided up the time since the Earth was formed. They first divided the time since the Earth formed into five eras. The Azoic era was without life; the Proterozoic era contained the very earliest forms of life; the Palaeozoic was the era which many sea creatures, fish and amphibians appeared; the reptiles ruled the Mesozoic era and the Cenozoic era belonged to mammals and to man. We are, at present, in the Cenozoic era. Each era was divided into periods, as shown in the diagram. There are further subdivisions of the periods, but not everybody uses the same system of divisions.« less