A geologic era is a subdivision of geologic time that divides an eon into smaller units of time. The Phanerozoic Eon is divided into three such time frames: the Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic represent the major stages in the macroscopic fossil record. These eras are separated by catastrophic extinction boundaries, the P-T boundary between the Paleozoic and the Mesozoic and the K-T boundary between the Mesozoic and the Cenozoic. There is evidence that catastrophic meteorite impacts played a role in demarcating the differences between the eras.
The Hadean, Archean and Proterozoic eons were as a whole formerly called the Precambrian. This covered the four billion years of Earth history prior to the appearance of hard-shelled animals. More recently, however, those eons have been subdivided into eras of their own.