The Pliocene epoch (spelled Pleiocene in older texts) is the period in the geologic timescale that extends from 5.332 million to 1.806 million years before present.
The Pliocene was named by Sir Charles Lyell. The name comes from the Greek words πλεῖον (pleion, "more") and καινός (kainos, "new") and means roughly "continuation of the recent", referring to the essentially modern marine mollusc faunas.
As with other older geologic periods, the geological strata that define the start and end are well identified but the exact dates of the start and end of the epoch are slightly uncertain. The boundaries defining the onset of the Pliocene are not set at an easily identified worldwide event but rather at regional boundaries between the warmer Miocene and the relatively cooler Pliocene. The upper boundary was set at the start of the Pleistocene glaciations. A recent proposal for a revision in the geologic timescale has the Pleistocene beginning at 1.8 million years ago, the proposal is however heavily disputed.
Astronomer Narciso Benítez of Johns Hopkins University and his team suggest that a supernova is a plausible but unproven candidate for the marine extinctions that characterize the Pliocene-Pleistocene boundary, by causing a significant breakdown of the ozone layer.