Plants & Animals: In Depth



Pre History - Part 3

Reptiles and Mammals evolve

248-206 million years ago


The Northern Hemisphere was dominated by conifers and ferns.


Archosaurs began to conquer the land.

These were the ancestors of dinosaurs, birds and today’s crocodiles, the first turtles appear.

The Ulster Museum has footprint of Ticinosuchus (‘Tessin crocodile’, named for finds near the Tessin River in Switzerland).

This meat-eating lizard-like reptile was about 2-3m long, walked on four short legs and had a long tail.

It lived around 230 million years ago.

The footprint comes from Scrabo and dates from a time when the land was subject to a desert climate.

The age of the dinosaurs

206-65 million years ago


The first flowering plants appear during this period.


This is the era of the dinosaurs although very little evidence exists in Northern Ireland for their presence as few Jurassic rocks remain.

The best place to find them is along the Antrim coast.

It is here the bones from the Ichthyosaur aka ‘Larne Sea Dragon’ or ‘Minnis Monster’ – can be found.

Grazing mammals evolve

65-23 million years ago


Flowering plants and conifers once again became more abundant during the early Palaeogene.

Swamp forests from middle latitudes to the shores of the Arctic Ocean were dominated by deciduous trees related to bald cypress.

Drier-ground vegetation supported members of the tea, laurel, and birch families, among many others.

Tree species include pine, alder, willow, red cedar, cypress, yew, hemlock, plane, gum and poplar.


Fossil leaves show low amounts and few types of damage caused by herbivorous insects.

The marine world of this period was much more like the modern marine realm than the era which preceded it.

Sharks are represented by mackerel sharks, several genera of sand tiger sharks, and the first small-toothed white shark.

Bony fishes became more common as well.

New forms of marine life appeared during this period.

On land, grazing animals increased with some herbivorous mammals evolving longer limbs, enabling them to run faster in open country.

This was followed by the Neogene period of 23 million years ago to 1.8 million years ago.

There is no evidence for this period. All we know is that towards the end of it temperatures start to oscillate.

Computer Generated Image of the fossil of a Ichthyosaur.

Ichthyosaur fossils can be found at along the Antrim Coast. navigation


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