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Devonian Period
419.2 m.y.a. to 358.9 m.y.a. (60.3 Million Years)
Evolving Planet Devonian Mural by Karen Carr
Karen Carr Studio Inc.
Forests of Devonian Time by Charles Knight
The Field Museum
Devonian Terrestrial Choanates by Alfred Kamajian
Tree of Life
Life Before Dinosaurs by William Stout
The Worlds of William Stout
Devonian Plants
A Review of the Universe
Audubon Insectarium Ancient Seas Mural by Karen Carr
Karen Carr Studio Inc.
Archaeopteris Forests by Doug Henderson
Indiana Devonian Marine Mural by Karen Carr
Karen Carr Studio Inc.
Division of Forestry & Natural Resources

Geological Ages Comprising the Devonian Period
AgeStart (m.y.a.)End (m.y.a.)Length (m. y.)
How the Earth's Continents May Have Been During the Devonian Period
View Continental Drift Animation
Click to View Continental Drift Animation


The Devonian period is known as “The Age of the Fishes” and was first used in the 1830s to describe a sequence of rocks in Devon, England. Devonian Sea LifeThere is a major mass extinction during the late Devonian (i.e., “Frasnian-Famennian event”) causing the tabulate-stromatoporoid reefs to disappear so completely that it took until the Triassic period to rebuild the reefs. In addition, the extinction either diminished or completely eradicated the brachiopods, trilobites, primitive fish groups, planktonic graptolites, and enigmatic tentaculites. The cause of this extinction is not clear but it has been suggested that the cause was global cooling associated with Gondwanan glaciation and/or sea-level/climatic change in conjunction with an extraterrestrial impact (e.g., comet/asteroid).

Tectonics and Paleoclimate

During the Devonian, the great super continent of Gondwanaland moves steadily north. The two continents of Laurentia and Baltica collide forming a new continent called Laurussia or Euramerica which starts to drift northward. The collision closes the Iapetus Ocean and results in the formation of several mountain ranges including the Caledonian Orogeny, Acadian/Appalachian, the Antler /Cordillerian, the Ellesmere, and the Uralian. Some of the Chinese blocks and Armorica have started to rift away from the Gondwanan margin. Siberia and the Kazakhstan terranes continued to drift northward. Both Gondwana and Euramerica are surrounded by subduction zones and are slowly traveling on a collision course. Sea levels were high worldwide and much of the land lay under underneath shallow oceans. Great shallow sandy bays, deltas, and inlets provided a prosperous home for tropical reef organisms. The rest of the planet is covered with a huge deep ocean. The Devonian was a “greenhouse age” where the climate was warm, mild, and generally dry world-wide.


ArchaeopterisPlants transform from scattered “vegetation” clinging to water margins early in the period into the first of earth’s forests covering large areas of land. Small primitive spore-bearing vascular plants quickly evolved into great trees (e.g., Archaeopteris) stretching 30 meters or more in height. Seed-bearing plants (i.e., Gymnosperms) also appeared toward the end of the Devonian providing independence from moist habitats for reproduction thus enabling plants to expand into drier areas.


DunkleosteusThe warm tropical oceans of the Devonian period abound in fish, nautiloids, corals, echinoderms, trilobites, and conodonts. Sponges were represented by newly evolved siliceous forms and the association between algae, sponges, and corals that began in the Ordovician continued with flourishing reefs thriving in the warm shallow seas. During the Devonian, the hylaesponges, rugose, tabulate corals and the brachiopods reached their zenith in number and diversity. EusthenopteronThe first ammonoids appear while the trilobites are in general decline possibly due to the increase in swimming predators such as new forms of fish and cephalopods. The Devonian saw the rapid diversification of fish especially the Placodermi, primitive sharks, Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish and lungfish), and Actinopterygii (conventional bony fish or ray-finned fish). Towards the end of the period the first fish-like tetrapodomorph moved ashore. Many arthropods including the first insects, eurypterids, arachnids (e.g., spiders), and primitive wingless insects invaded the land.

Meteorite Impacts on Earth

I included a list of meteorite impacts relevant to this time period as a point of Brent Meteorite Crater, Canada, North America (Age: 396 m.y.a., Dia: 2.4 mi) reference since many of the explanations for mass extinctions throughout Earth’s history include meteorite impact(s) as a possible cause. The meteorite impact information below was obtained from the ‘Earth Impact Database’ maintained by the Planetary and Space Science Centre, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada ( www.passc.net/EarthImpactDatabase).
The Earth Impact Database currently contains 10 meteorite impacts which are believed to have occurred during the Devonian Period.
Crater NameCountry & ContinentDiameterLongitudeLatitudeM.Y.A.
Flynn CreekUnited States, North America3.80 km (2.361 mi)W 85° 40'N 36° 17'360
PiccaninnyAustralia, Oceania7.00 km (4.350 mi)E 128° 25'S 17° 32'360
WoodleighAustralia, Oceania40.00 km (24.855 mi)E 114° 39'S 26° 3'364
SiljanSweden, Europe52.00 km (32.311 mi)E 14° 52'N 61° 2'377
IlyinetsUkraine, Europe8.50 km (5.282 mi)E 29° 6'N 49° 7'378
KalugaRussian Federation, Asia15.00 km (9.321 mi)E 36° 12'N 54° 30'380
ElbowCanada, North America8.00 km (4.971 mi)W 106° 43'N 50° 59'395
BrentCanada, North America3.80 km (2.361 mi)W 78° 29'N 46° 5'396
NicholsonCanada, North America12.50 km (7.767 mi)W 102° 41'N 62° 40'400
La MoinerieCanada, North America8.00 km (4.971 mi)W 66° 37'N 57° 26'400

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