The Ordovician

490 to 443 Million Years Ago

The Ordovician period began approximately 490 million years ago, with the end of the Cambrian, and ended around 443 million years ago, with the beginning of the Silurian. At this time, the area north of the tropics was almost entirely ocean, and most of the world's land was collected into the southern super-continent Gondwana. Throughout the Ordovician, Gondwana shifted towards the South Pole and much of it was submerged underwater.

The Ordovician is best known for the presence of its diverse marine invertebrates, including graptolites, trilobites, brachiopods, and the conodonts (early vertebrates). A typical marine community consisted of these animals, plus red and green algae, primitive fish, cephalopods, corals, crinoids, and gastropods. More recently, there has been found evidence of tetrahedral spores that are similar to those of primitive land plants, suggesting that plants invaded the land at this time.

From the Early to Middle Ordovician, the earth experienced a milder climate in which the weather was warm and the atmosphere contained a lot of moisture. However, when Gondwana finally settled on the South Pole during the Late Ordovician, massive glaciers formed causing shallow seas to drain and sea levels to drop. This likely caused the mass extinctions that characterize the end of the Ordovician, in which 60% of all marine invertebrate genera and 25% of all families went extinct.

Click on the buttons below to learn more about the Ordovician.

Cambrian Silurian
Subdivisions of the

The chart at left shows the major subdivisions of the Ordovician Period. This chart is mapped, to allow you to travel back to the Cambrian or forward to the Silurian.

The Ordovician Period is part of the Paleozoic Era.

For additional Ordovician pages, try these sites :