The quaternary describes the youngest and at the same time the shortest epoch of the earth's history, started about 2.6 million years ago and reaches to the present day. Thus, the appearance of man on earth is one of the most important developments of the Quaternary. Scientists divide this period today into the Pleistocene and the Holocene. The name for this era goes back to a term coined by the Italian geologist Giovanni Arduino, who already in the second half of the 18th century named superimposed layers of rock in Italy from primary to quaternary. As a scientific name, the name Quatern prevailed only in 1829, when the French geologist and historian took him to name in the Paris Basin rocks from this era with Arduino's name.
Due to the very short duration of this most recent period compared to the previous epochs of the earth's history, the exact limit of the Tertiary to the Quaternary to this day is not clearly defined. In addition to hominization, the Quaternary is also significant as the age of icing and glaciation in much of the earth.
As a period referred to by scientists as the "Ice Age", the Quaternary is characterized by strong temperature differences and the formation of extensive ice sheets around the two polar ice caps. Due to the temperature fluctuations, the earth was subdivided into warm, temperate and cold climates in the Quaternary. In the cold zones, about thirty percent of the earth's surface is now covered by ice and glaciers.
The water-to-ice transition gradually reduced sea levels and formed Quaternary land bridges and today's shorelines. Between the individual ice ages of the Quaternary, however, there were temporarily higher temperatures than today. Despite its temporal brevity, the Quaternary is considered the most formative age of geological history, because not only the distribution and location of the continents took on its present form, even the deposits of this era are today recognizable on the earth's surface and shape the landscape.
Flora and Fauna (plants and animals):
The early phase of the Quaternary is marked by the appearance of the first humans to emerge about two million years ago. As the first species of the human genus Homo habilis initially colonized only Africa and was already able to make tools and use them specifically. However, Homo habilis was still bent and had a low brain volume. Probably a million years ago, Homo habilis finally set out to conquer other continents and settle in Europe and Asia. About 200,000 years ago, Homo neanderthalensis appeared in Europe, which had adapted to life in the cold zones of northern Europe, but died out about 30,000 years ago. As a direct forerunner of modern man emerged in the late Quaternary of the archaic Homo sapiens, which presumably repressed the Neanderthals and was already able to shape its surroundings by creativity and pronounced social fabric itself and influence.
The flora and fauna also experienced major changes and developments in the Quaternary, which were mainly influenced by the strong temperature fluctuations. Large migrations took place among mammals, and many of the species now living in warm climates, such as rhinos, monkeys, elephants and hippos, also first colonized Europe until they finally retreated to Africa and southern Asia. The vegetation adapted to the increasingly cool climate and produced many new species such as ash, beech, elm and fir, which today make up our forests.