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Units in geochronology and stratigraphy[1]
Segments of rock (strata) in chronostratigraphy Time spans in geochronology Notes to
geochronological units
Eonothem Eon 4 total, half a billion years or more
Erathem Era 10 defined, several hundred million years
System Period 22 defined, tens to ~one hundred million years
Series Epoch 34 defined, tens of millions of years
Stage Age 99 defined, millions of years
Chronozone Chron subdivision of an age, not used by the ICS timescale

A chronozone or chron is a slice of time that begins at a given identifiable event and ends at another. Such tracer events are usually keyed to the disappearance (extinction) of fossils of a widely distributed and rapidly changing species or the appearance of such a species in the geological record. Researchers use chronozones or chrons especially frequently in the various disciplines related to geology, notably in stratigraphy where they contribute to relative dating.

Events susceptible to identification and analysis by the physical sciences (such as Earth's magnetic-field reversals or the location of a combination of chemical evidence in a layer corresponding to the meteor strike believed to have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs) can also help define chronozones. Hence chronozones, and the international identification and acceptance of widespread chronozones as official useful markers or benchmarks of time in the rock record, are non-hierarchical in that chronozones do not need to correspond across geographic or geologic boundaries, nor be equal in length (despite an early constraint that one be defined as smaller than a geological stage[2]). A chronozone is usually defined in geologic terms for a geographical area by fossil names (biozone or biochronozone) or in worldwide terms by geomagnetic-reversal identifiers (polarity chronozone).

According to the International Commission on Stratigraphy, the term "chronozone" refers to the rocks formed during a particular time period, while "chron" refers to that time period.[3] The key factor in designating an internationally acceptable chronozone is whether the overall fossil column is clear, unambiguous, and widespread. Some accepted chronozones contain others, and certain larger chronozones have been designated which span whole defined geological time units, both large and small.

For example, the chronozone known as "the reign of Tiberius" (14 to 37 AD) would be a subset of the chronozone "Imperial Rome". Similarly the chronozone Pliocene is a subset of the chronozone Neogene, and the chronozone Pleistocene is a subset of the chronozone Quaternary.

See also


  1. ^ Cohen, K.M.; Finney, S.; Gibbard, P.L. (2015), International Chronostratigraphic Chart (PDF), International Commission on Stratigraphy .
  2. ^ An early use in Harland, W.B., Armstrong, R.L., Cox, A.V., Craig, L.E., Smith, A.G., and Smith, D.G. (1989) A Geologic Time Scale Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, was hierarchical in that Harland et al. used "chronozone" for the slice of time smaller than a Faunal stage defined in biostratigraphy. The ICS has superseded this usage.
  3. ^ "Magnetostratigraphic polarity units" International Commission on Stratigraphy


  • Gehling, James; Jensen, Sören; Droser, Mary; Myrow, Paul; Narbonne, Guy (March 2001). "Burrowing below the basal Cambrian GSSP, Fortune Head, Newfoundland". Geological Magazine. 138 (2): 213–218. doi:10.1017/S001675680100509X. 1. 
  • Hedberg, H.D., (editor), International stratigraphic guide: A guide to stratigraphic classification, terminology, and procedure, New York, John Wiley and Sons, 1976
  • International Stratigraphic Chart from the International Commission on Stratigraphy
  • USA National Park Service
  • Washington State University
  • Web Geological Time Machine
  • Eon or Aeon, Math Words - An alphabetical index

External links

  • The Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP): overview
  • Chart of The Global Boundary Stratotype Sections and Points (GSSP): chart
  • Geotime chart displaying geologic time periods compared to the fossil record

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