The Cretaceous ( /krɨˈteɪʃəs/, krə-TAY-shəs), derived from the Latin "creta" (chalk), usually abbreviated K for its German translation Kreide (chalk), is a geologic period and system from circa 145 ± 4 to 66 ± 0.3 million years (Ma) ago. In the geologic timescale, the Cretaceous follows the Jurassic period and is followed by the Paleogene period of the Cenozoic era. It is the last period of the Mesozoic Era, and, spanning 80 million years, the longest period of the Phanerozoic Eon.
The Cretaceous was a period with a relatively warm climate, resulting in high eustatic sea levels and creating 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. At the same time, new groups of mammals and birds, as well as flowering plants, appeared. The Cretaceous ended with a large mass extinction, the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, in which many groups, including non-avian dinosaurs, pterosaurs, and large marine reptiles, died out. The end of the Cretaceous is defined by the K–Pg boundary, a geologic signature associated with the mass extinction which lies between the Mesozoic and Cenozoic Eras.