The Phanerozoic eon is the current eon on the geologic timescale. It is the one in which abundant animal life has existed. It covers about 541 million years, and goes back to the time when hard-shelled animals first appeared. It was once thought that life began in the Cambrian, the first period of this eon.

The time before the Phanerozoic, formerly called the Precambrian, is now divided into the Hadean, Archaean and Proterozoic eons.


During the Phanerozoic the biodiversity shows a general increase from near zero to several thousands of genera.

The exact time of the boundary between the Phanerozoic and the Proterozoic is slightly uncertain. In the 19th century, the boundary was set at the first abundant metazoan fossils. But several hundred kinds of Proterozoic metazoa have been discovered in the Ediacaran. Study of the Ediacaran biota started in the 1950s. There are three dividing points at the Proterozoic-Phanerozoic boundary. It might be where the first trilobites and archaeocyatha appear; or at the first appearance of signs of burrowing; or at the first appearance of the 'small shelly fauna'. The three different dividing points are within a few million years of each other.

In the Phanerozoic biodiversity increased hugely: [1][2]

  1. the rapid emergence of animal phyla;
  2. the evolution of these phyla into diverse forms;
  3. the emergence of terrestrial plants;
  4. the development of complex plants;
  5. the evolution of fish;
  6. the emergence of terrestrial animals; and
  7. the development of modern faunas.

During the period covered, continents drifted about, eventually collecting into a single landmass known as Pangea and then splitting up into the current continental landmasses.

The Phanerozoic is divided into three eras: the Palaeozoic, Mesozoic, and Cainozoic.

Phanerozoic Media

Related pages


  1. Markov A. & Korotayev A. 2008. Phanerozoic marine biodiversity follows a hyperbolic trend. Science Direct. [1]
  2. Miller K.G. et al 2005. The Phanerozoic record of global sea-level change. Science 310 (5752): 1293–1298. [2]