The Cretaceous ( /krəˈtʃəs/ krə-TAY-shəs)[2] is a geological period that lasted from about 145 to 66 million years ago (Mya). It is the third and final period of the Mesozoic era, as well as the longest. At nearly 80 million years, it is the longest geological period of the entire Phanerozoic. The name is derived from the Latin creta, "chalk", which is abundant in the latter half of the period. It is usually abbreviated K, for its German translation Kreide.

~145.0 – 66.0 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 definitionNot formally defined
Lower boundary definition candidates
Lower boundary GSSP candidate section(s)None
Upper boundary definitionIridium-enriched layer associated with a major meteorite impact and subsequent K-Pg extinction event
Upper boundary GSSPEl Kef Section, El Kef, Tunisia
36.1537°N 8.6486°E / 36.1537; 8.6486
GSSP ratified1991
Atmospheric and climatic data
Mean atmospheric O
c. 30 vol %
(150 % of modern)
Mean atmospheric CO
c. 1700 ppm
(6 times pre-industrial)
Mean surface temperaturec. 18 °C
(4 °C above modern)

The Cretaceous was a period with a relatively warm climate, resulting in high eustatic sea levels that created numerous shallow inland seas. These oceans and seas were populated with now-extinct marine reptiles, ammonites, and rudists, while dinosaurs continued to dominate on land. The world was ice free, and forests extended to the poles. During this time, new groups of mammals and birds appeared. During the Early Cretaceous, flowering plants appeared and began to rapidly diversify, becoming the dominant group of plants across the Earth by the end of the Cretaceous, coincident with the decline and extinction of previously widespread gymnosperm groups.

The Cretaceous (along with the Mesozoic) ended with the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, a large mass extinction in which many groups, including non-avian dinosaurs, pterosaurs, and large marine reptiles, died out. The end of the Cretaceous is defined by the abrupt Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary (K–Pg boundary), a geologic signature associated with the mass extinction that lies between the Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras.