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The Pliocene (5.2-1.64 mya)

  pliocene community
Pliocene community (Smithsonian Institution 2000)

        Climate continued to cool and dry during the Pliocene (Prothero 1998), resulting in the domination of evergreen over deciduous forests, and a general decline in tree numbers (WGBH 2001).  Steppe environments appeared and replaced many of the savannas that were created during the Miocene (Prothero 1998).  By the end of the Pliocene, ice sheets covered both the north and south poles (WGBH 2001) and the earth had entered a period of fluctuating glacial conditions (Prothero 1998).  These glacial conditions may have been caused by changed ocean circulation patterns resulting from the closure of the Isthmus of Panama, which connected North and South America and divided the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans (WGBH 2001).  

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