1000 – ~720 Ma
A map of the world as it appeared during the late Tonian, c. 750 Ma
Name formalityFormal
Usage information
Celestial bodyEarth
Regional usageGlobal (ICS)
Time scale(s) usedICS Time Scale
Chronological unitPeriod
Stratigraphic unitSystem
Time span formalityFormal
Lower boundary definitionDefined chronometrically
Lower GSSA ratified1991[3]
Upper boundary definitionRedefined chronometrically with an interim calibrated age of c. 720 Ma. GSSP is in progress.[4] (Previously defined chronometrically as 850 Ma)[3]
Upper boundary definition candidatesThe first appearance of widespread glaciation.[5]
Upper boundary GSSP candidate section(s)To be determined

The Tonian (from Ancient Greek: τόνος, romanizedtónos, meaning "stretch") is the first geologic period of the Neoproterozoic Era. It lasted from 1000 to 720 Mya (million years ago). Instead of being based on stratigraphy, these dates are defined by the ICS based on radiometric chronometry. The Tonian is preceded by the Stenian Period of the Mesoproterozoic Era and followed by the Cryogenian.

Rifting leading to the breakup of supercontinent Rodinia, which had formed in the mid-Stenian, occurred during this period, starting from 900 to 850 Mya.


See also: Huainan biota

The first putative metazoan (animal) fossils are dated to the middle to late Tonian (c. 890-800 Mya). The fossils of Otavia antiqua, which has been described as a primitive sponge by its discoverers and numerous other scholars, date back to about 800 mya. Even earlier sponge-like fossils have been reported in reefs dating back to 890 million years before the present, but their identity is highly debated.[6] This dating is consistent with molecular data recovered through genetic studies on modern metazoan species; more recent studies have concluded that the base of the animal phylogenetic tree is in the Tonian.[7]

The first large evolutionary radiation of acritarchs occurred during the Tonian.

See also


  1. ^ Brain, C. K.; Prave, A. R.; Hoffmann, K. H.; Fallik, A. E.; Herd D. A.; Sturrock, C.; Young, I.; Condon, D. J.; Allison, S. G. (2012). "The first animals: ca. 760-million-year-old sponge-like fossils from Namibia". S. Afr. J. Sci. 108 (8): 1–8. doi:10.4102/sajs.v108i1/2.658.
  2. ^ Bernhard, Joan (11 June 2013). "Insights into foraminiferal influences on microfabrics of microbialites at Highborne Cay, Bahamas". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 110 (24): 9830–9834. Bibcode:2013PNAS..110.9830B. doi:10.1073/pnas.1221721110. PMC 3683713. PMID 23716649.
  3. ^ a b Plumb, K. A. (June 1, 1991). "New Precambrian time scale". Episodes. 14 (2): 139–140. doi:10.18814/epiiugs/1991/v14i2/005. Retrieved 16 January 2023.
  4. ^ Shields, Graham A.; Halversonb, Galen P.; Porter, Susannah M. (2018). "Descent into the Cryogenian". Precambrian Research. 319. doi:10.1016/j.precamres.2018.08.015.
  5. ^ Shields-Zhou, Graham A.; Porter, Susannah; Halverson, Galen P. (2016). "A new rock-based definition for the Cryogenian Period (circa 720 – 635 Ma)". Episodes. 39 (1): 3–8. doi:10.18814/epiiugs/2016/v39i1/89231. ISSN 0705-3797.
  6. ^ Turner, Elizabeth C. (28 July 2021). "Possible poriferan body fossils in early Neoproterozoic microbial reefs". Nature. 596 (7870): 87–91. Bibcode:2021Natur.596...87T. doi:10.1038/s41586-021-03773-z. PMC 8338550. PMID 34321662.
  7. ^ Kliman, Richard M. (Apr 14, 2016). Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Biology. Academic Press. p. 251. ISBN 9780128004265.

Further reading