When you think about the Miocene epoch (roughly 23 – 5 million years ago, snuggled between the Oligocene and the Pliocene), what comes to mind? Probably nothing and that makes me sad. We’ve all heard about the Cretaceous, the Jurassic, and the Pleistocene (at least we better have) but not necessarily the Miocene. This has to change, because the Miocene has lots of very nice things to share with the world. Things like the formation of mountains, the spread of grasslands, and kelp forests. The Miocene also had really cool animals running around; the grazing variety of horses, early dogs, and giant birds. And humans weren’t really around yet, which appeals to me. Clearly, the Miocene was a pretty neat time to be around. Not like the stupid Ordovician period. Nobody cares about the Ordovician period.
Now, the Miocene wasn’t just fun and games, some treetop browsers, such as early camels and giraffes, had a hard time due to the spread of grasslands. But they persisted and eventually flourished again in later times.
Other animals had a better time of it. Horses really got to stretch their legs during the Miocene. Originally confined to forests during the Eocene, horses were able to evolve into much larger, faster animals during the grassy Miocene. A large variety of horses began to evolve, many of which ditched those out-of-date extra toes in favor of the sleek, minimalist-hooved look.
Another cool Miocene inhabitant was Deinotherium, a rather silly-looking elephant relative with downward-pointing tusks. But don’t tell them that, because they could mess you up. Standing at 14.5ft at the shoulder, Deinotherium was the second largest land mammal ever (second to Paraceratherium, a rhino-relative). Other elephant-like beasts that lived during the Miocene include Gomphotherium, a four-tusked primitive mastodon, and Platybelodon, an early mastodon with shovel-like tusks.
With all these super-duper cool animals walking around, doesn't the Miocene deserve our praise? I think so.