Pterosaurs: dragons of the air
The Neogene (Miocene and Pliocene)
This was a time of remarkable climate change caused mainly by atmospheric circulation patterns responding to the rising Himalayan mountains. Cooling of the higher latitudes saw the accumulation of huge ice sheets, first in Antarctica and later in Greenland and North America: a global cooling culminating in the Pleistocene ice ages. Grasslands spread on all the large continents with a remarkable effect on mammalian evolution. An arms race between predator and prey on the open plains generated animals with the ability to run or out-run each other at speeds of up to 90kph. In this period apes appeared and by the end of the Pliocene the world saw the appearance of a new animal: Australopithecus.
During this time birds achieved huge wingspans. The Argentinian teratorn Argentavis may have had a wingspan of up to 6m.
Global reconstruction courtesy of Professor Ron Blakey, Northern Arizona University, Geology.