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During the Mesozoic, or "Middle Life" Era, life diversified rapidly and giant reptiles, dinosaurs and other monstrous beasts roamed the Earth. The period, which spans from about million years ago to about 66 million years ago, was also known as the age of reptiles or the age of dinosaurs.

English geologist John Phillips, the first person to create the global geologic timescale, first coined the term Mesozoic in the s. Phillips found ways to correlate sediments found around the world to specific time periods, said Paul Olsen, a geoscientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York.

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The Mesozoic Era began roughly around the time of the end-Permian extinction, which wiped out 96 percent of marine life and 70 percent of all terrestrial species on the planet. Life slowly rebounded, eventually giving way to a flourishing diversity of animals, from massive lizards to monstrous dinosaurs. Coniferous plants, or those that have cone-bearing seeds, already existed at the beginning of the era, but they became much more abundant during the Mesozoic.

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Flowering plants emerged during the late Cretaceous Period. Earth during the Mesozoic Era was much warmer than today, and the planet had no polar ice caps.

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Without much coastline to moderate the continent's interior temperature, Pangaea experienced major temperature swings and was covered in large swaths of desert. Yet the region still had a belt of tropical rainforest in regions around the equator, said Brendan Murphy, an earth scientist at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Canada. The Mesozoic Era was bookended by two great extinctions, with another smaller extinction occurring at the end of the Triassic Period, Olsen said.

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At the end of the Triassic Period, roughly million years ago, most amphibious creatures and crocodile-like creatures that lived in the tropics were wiped out. About 65 million years ago, a giant asteroid blasted into Earth and formed a giant crater at Chicxulub in the Yucatan Peninsula.

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Marine Reptiles and other creatures that lived along dinosaurs. size comparison

Dinosaurs and other Mesozoic reptile of California. Richard P.

Hilton University of California Press , Berkeley,