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In Paleocene oceans, sharks filled the empty niches left by aquatic reptiles, but it took coral reefs ten million years to begin to recover, . As Africa and India moved northward, the shrank, and in the late Paleocene and early Eocene, one of the last Tethyan anoxic events laid down Middle East oil, and the last Paleocene climate event is called the (“PETM”). The PETM has been the focus of a great deal of recent research because of its parallels to today’s industrial era, when carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are massively vented to the atmosphere, causing a warming atmosphere and acidifying oceans. The seafloor communities suffered a mass extinction and the PETM’s causes are uncertain, but the when the global ocean warmed sufficiently is a prominent hypothesis. Scientists also look to the usual suspects of volcanism, changes in oceanic circulation, and a bolide impact.
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The PETM, according to , “only” lasted . The early (c. 56 to 34 mya), which followed the PETM, is also known as one of Earth’s Golden Ages of Life. It has also been called a Golden Age of Mammals, but all life on Earth thrived then. In 1912, the doomed spent a day collecting Antarctic fossils and still had them a month later when the entire team died in a blizzard. The fossils were recovered and examined in London. They surprisingly yielded evidence that tropical forests once existed near the South Pole. They were Permian plants. That was not long after , and was generations before orthodoxy accepted Wegener’s idea. Antarctica has rarely strayed far from the South Pole during the past 500 million years, so the fossils really represented polar forests. A generation before the Scott Expedition’s Antarctic fossils were discovered, scientists had been finding similar evidence of polar forests in the Arctic, within several hundred kilometers of the North Pole, on and . Scientists were finding in the Arctic, which were much younger than Permian plants.