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Paleozoic means "ancient life", and it was the time period when multicellular animals started to evolve, as evidenced by the fossil record.
The Paleozoic (or Palaeozoic) Era (/ˌpæliːɵˈzoʊɪk/ or /ˌpeɪliːɵˈzoʊɪk/; from the Greek palaios (παλαιός), "old" and zoe (ζωή), "life", meaning "ancient life") is the earliest of three geologic eras of the Phanerozoic Eon, spanning from roughly 541 to 252.2 MYA (ICS, 2004). It is the longest of the Phanerozoic eras, and is subdivided into six geologic periods (from oldest to least old): the Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous, and Permian. The Paleozoic comes after the Neoproterozoic Era of the Proterozoic Eon, and is followed by the Mesozoic Era.
The Paleozoic was a time of dramatic geological, climatic, and evolutionary change. The Cambrian period witnessed the most rapid and widespread diversification of life in Earth's history, known as the Cambrian explosion, in which most modern phyla first appeared. Fish, arthropods, amphibians and reptiles all evolved during the Paleozoic. Life began in the ocean but eventually transitioned onto land, and by the late Paleozoic, it was dominated by various forms of organisms. Great forests of primitive plants covered the continents, many of which formed the coal beds of Europe and eastern North America. Towards the end of the era, large, sophisticated reptiles were dominant and the first modern plants (conifers) appeared.
The Paleozoic Era ended with the largest mass extinction in Earth's history, the Permian–Triassic extinction event. The effects of this catastrophe were so devastating that it took life on land 30 million years into the Mesozoic to recover.Recovery of life in the sea may have been much faster.