Triassic

Last updated
Triassic
251.902 ± 0.024 – 201.4 ± 0.2 Ma
220 Ma paleoglobe.png
A map of the world as it appeared during the Late Triassic, c. 220 Ma
Chronology
Etymology
Name formalityFormal
Usage information
Celestial body Earth
Regional usageGlobal (ICS)
Time scale(s) usedICS Time Scale
Definition
Chronological unit Period
Stratigraphic unit System
Time span formalityFormal
Lower boundary definitionFirst appearance of the conodont Hindeodus parvus
Lower boundary GSSP Meishan, Zhejiang, China
31°04′47″N119°42′21″E / 31.0798°N 119.7058°E / 31.0798; 119.7058
Lower GSSP ratified2001 [6]
Upper boundary definitionFirst appearance of the ammonite Psiloceras spelae tirolicum
Upper boundary GSSPKuhjoch section, Karwendel mountains, Northern Calcareous Alps, Austria
47°29′02″N11°31′50″E / 47.4839°N 11.5306°E / 47.4839; 11.5306
Upper GSSP ratified2010 [7]

The Triassic ( /trˈæsɪk/ try-ASS-ik; sometimes symbolized 🝈) [8] is a geologic period and system which spans 50.5 million years from the end of the Permian Period 251.902 million years ago (Mya), to the beginning of the Jurassic Period 201.4 Mya. [9] The Triassic is the first and shortest period of the Mesozoic Era. Both the start and end of the period are marked by major extinction events. [10] The Triassic Period is subdivided into three epochs: Early Triassic, Middle Triassic and Late Triassic.

Contents

The Triassic began in the wake of the Permian–Triassic extinction event, which left the Earth's biosphere impoverished; it was well into the middle of the Triassic before life recovered its former diversity. Three categories of organisms can be distinguished in the Triassic record: survivors from the extinction event, new groups that flourished briefly, and other new groups that went on to dominate the Mesozoic Era. Reptiles, especially archosaurs, were the chief terrestrial vertebrates during this time. A specialized subgroup of archosaurs, called dinosaurs, first appeared in the Late Triassic but did not become dominant until the succeeding Jurassic Period. [11] Archosaurs that became dominant in this period were primarily pseudosuchians, relatives and ancestors of modern crocodilians, while some archosaurs specialized in flight, the first time among vertebrates, becoming the pterosaurs.

Therapsids, the dominant vertebrates of the preceding Permian period, declined throughout the period. The first true mammals, themselves a specialized subgroup of therapsids, also evolved during this period. The vast supercontinent of Pangaea dominated the globe during the Triassic, but in the following Jurassic period it began to gradually rift into two separate landmasses, Laurasia to the north and Gondwana to the south.

The global climate during the Triassic was mostly hot and dry, [12] with deserts spanning much of Pangaea's interior. However, the climate shifted and became more humid as Pangaea began to drift apart. The end of the period was marked by yet another major mass extinction, the Triassic–Jurassic extinction event, that wiped out many groups, including most pseudosuchians, and allowed dinosaurs to assume dominance in the Jurassic.

Etymology

The Triassic was named in 1834 by Friedrich August von Alberti, after a succession of three distinct rock layers (Greek triás meaning 'triad') that are widespread in southern Germany: the lower Buntsandstein (colourful sandstone ), the middle Muschelkalk (shell-bearing limestone) and the upper Keuper (coloured clay). [13]

Dating and subdivisions

On the geologic time scale, the Triassic is usually divided into Early, Middle, and Late Triassic Epochs, and the corresponding rocks are referred to as Lower, Middle, or Upper Triassic. The faunal stages from the youngest to oldest are:

Series/EpochFaunal stageTime span
Upper/Late Triassic (Tr3) Rhaetian (208.5201.4± 0.2 Mya)
Norian (227208.5 Mya)
Carnian (237227 Mya)
Middle Triassic (Tr2) Ladinian (242237 Mya)
Anisian (247.2242 Mya)
Lower/Early Triassic (Scythian) Olenekian (251.2247.2 Mya)
Induan (251.902± 0.024 251.2 Mya)

Paleogeography

View of the Tethys area during the Ladinian stage (230 Ma) 230 Ma plate tectonic reconstruction.png
View of the Tethys area during the Ladinian stage (230 Ma)
230 Ma continental reconstruction Pangaea (230 million years ago).png
230 Ma continental reconstruction

During the Triassic, almost all the Earth's land mass was concentrated into a single supercontinent, Pangaea (lit.'entire land'). [14] This supercontinent was more-or-less centered on the equator and extended between the poles, though it did drift northwards as the period progressed. Southern Pangea, also known as Gondwana, was made up by closely-appressed cratons corresponding to modern South America, Africa, Madagascar, India, Antarctica, and Australia. North Pangea, also known as Laurussia or Laurasia, corresponds to modern-day North America and the fragmented predecessors of Eurasia.

The western edge of Pangea lay at the margin of an enormous ocean, Panthalassa (lit. 'entire sea'), which roughly corresponds to the modern Pacific Ocean. Practically all deep-ocean crust present during the Triassic has been recycled through the subduction of oceanic plates, so very little is known about the open ocean from this time period. Most information on Panthalassan geology and marine life is derived from island arcs and rare seafloor sediments accreted onto surrounding land masses, such as present-day Japan and western North America.

The eastern edge of Pangea was encroached upon by a pair of extensive oceanic basins: The Neo-Tethys (or simply Tethys) and Paleo-Tethys Oceans. These extended from China to Iberia, hosting abundant marine life along their shallow tropical peripheries. They were divided from each other by a long string of microcontinents known as the Cimmerian terranes. Cimmerian crust had detached from Gondwana in the early Permian and drifted northwards during the Triassic, enlarging the Neo-Tethys Ocean which formed in their wake. At the same time, they forced the Paleo-Tethys Ocean to shrink as it was being subducted under Asia. By the end of the Triassic, the Paleo-Tethys Ocean occupied a small area and the Cimmerian terranes began to collide with southern Asia. This collision, known as the Cimmerian Orogeny, continued into the Jurassic and Cretaceous to produce a chain of mountain ranges stretching from Turkey to Malaysia. [15] [16]

Sydney, Australia lies on Triassic shales and sandstones. Almost all of the exposed rocks around Sydney belong to the Triassic Sydney sandstone. (1)Saunders Quarry-1.jpg
Sydney, Australia lies on Triassic shales and sandstones. Almost all of the exposed rocks around Sydney belong to the Triassic Sydney sandstone.

Pangaea was fractured by widespread faulting and rift basins during the Triassic—especially late in that period—but had not yet separated. The first nonmarine sediments in the rift that marks the initial break-up of Pangaea, which separated eastern North America from Morocco, are of Late Triassic age; in the United States, these thick sediments comprise the Newark Supergroup. [18] Rift basins are also common in South America, Europe, and Africa. Terrestrial environments are particularly well-represented in the South Africa, [19] Russia, central Europe, and the southwest United States. Terrestrial Triassic biostratigraphy is mostly based on terrestrial and freshwater tetrapods, as well as conchostracans ("clam shrimps"), a type of fast-breeding crustacean which lived in lakes and hypersaline environments.

Because a supercontinent has less shoreline compared to a series of smaller continents, Triassic marine deposits are relatively uncommon on a global scale. A major exception is in Western Europe, where the Triassic was first studied. The northeastern margin of Gondwana was a stable passive margin along the Neo-Tethys Ocean, and marine sediments have been preserved in parts of northern India and Arabia. [16] In North America, marine deposits are limited to a few exposures in the west.

Scandinavia

During the Triassic peneplains are thought to have formed in what is now Norway and southern Sweden. [20] [21] [22] Remnants of this peneplain can be traced as a tilted summit accordance in the Swedish West Coast. [20] In northern Norway Triassic peneplains may have been buried in sediments to be then re-exposed as coastal plains called strandflats. [21] Dating of illite clay from a strandflat of Bømlo, southern Norway, have shown that landscape there became weathered in Late Triassic times (c. 210 million years ago) with the landscape likely also being shaped during that time. [23]

Paleooceanography

Eustatic sea level in the Triassic was consistently low compared to the other geological periods. The beginning of the Triassic was around present sea level, rising to about 10–20 metres (33–66 ft) above present-day sea level during the Early and Middle Triassic. Sea level rise accelerated in the Ladinian, culminating with a sea level up to 50 metres (164 ft) above present-day levels during the Carnian. Sea level began to decline in the Norian, reaching a low of 50 metres (164 ft) below present sea level during the mid-Rhaetian. Low global sea levels persisted into the earliest Jurassic. The long-term sea level trend is superimposed by 22 sea level drop events widespread in the geologic record, mostly of minor (less than 25-metre (82 ft)) and medium (25–75-metre (82–246 ft)) magnitudes. A lack of evidence for Triassic continental ice sheets suggest that glacial eustasy is unlikely to be the cause of these changes. [24]

Climate

The Triassic continental interior climate was generally hot and dry, so that typical deposits are red bed sandstones and evaporites. There is no evidence of glaciation at or near either pole; in fact, the polar regions were apparently moist and temperate, providing a climate suitable for forests and vertebrates, including reptiles. Pangaea's large size limited the moderating effect of the global ocean; its continental climate was highly seasonal, with very hot summers and cold winters. [25] The strong contrast between the Pangea supercontinent and the global ocean triggered intense cross-equatorial monsoons, [25] sometimes referred to as the Pangean megamonsoons. [26]

The Triassic may have mostly been a dry period, but evidence exists that it was punctuated by several episodes of increased rainfall in tropical and subtropical latitudes of the Tethys Sea and its surrounding land. [27] Sediments and fossils suggestive of a more humid climate are known from the Anisian to Ladinian of the Tethysian domain, and from the Carnian and Rhaetian of a larger area that includes also the Boreal domain (e.g., Svalbard Islands), the North American continent, the South China block and Argentina. The best-studied of such episodes of humid climate, and probably the most intense and widespread, was the Carnian Pluvial Event.

Early Triassic

The Early Triassic was the hottest portion of the entire Phanerozoic, seeing as it occurred during and immediately after the discharge of titanic volumes of greenhouse gases from the Siberian Traps. The Early Triassic began with the Permian-Triassic Thermal Maximum (PTTM) and was followed by the brief Dienerian Cooling (DC) from 251 to 249 Ma, which was in turn followed by the Latest Smithian Thermal Maximum (LSTT) around 249 to 248 Ma. During the Latest Olenekian Cooling (LOC), from 248 to 247 Ma, temperatures cooled by about 6 °C. [28]

Middle Triassic

The Middle Triassic was cooler than the Early Triassic, with temperatures falling over most of the Anisian, with the exception of a warming spike in the latter portion of the stage. [29] From 242 to 233 Ma, the Ladinian-Carnian Cooling (LCC) ensued. [28]

Late Triassic

At the beginning of the Carnian, global temperatures continued to be relatively cool. [30] The eruption of the Wrangellia Large Igneous Province around 234 Ma caused abrupt global warming, terminating the cooling trend of the LCC. [31] This warming was responsible for the Carnian Pluvial Event and resulted in an episode of widespread global humidity. [32] The CPE ushered in the Mid-Carnian Warm Interval (MCWI), which lasted from 234 to 227 Ma. [28] At the Carnian-Norian boundary occurred a positive δ13C excursion believed to signify an increase in organic carbon burial. [33] From 227 to 217 Ma, there was a relatively cool period known as the Early Norian Cool Interval (ENCI), after which occurred the Mid-Norian Warm Interval (MNWI) from 217 to 209 Ma. The MNWI was briefly interrupted around 214 Ma by a cooling possibly related to the Manicouagan impact. [28] Around 212 Ma, a 10 Myr eccentricity maximum caused a paludification of Pangaea and a reduction in the size of arid climatic zones. [34] The Rhaetian Cool Interval (RCI) lasted from 209 to 201 Ma. [28] At the terminus of the Triassic, there was an extreme warming event referred to as the End-Triassic Thermal Event (ETTE), which was responsible for the Triassic-Jurassic mass extinction. [28] Bubbles of carbon dioxide in basaltic rocks dating back to the end of the Triassic indicate that volcanic activity from the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province helped trigger climate change in the ETTE. [35]

Flora

Triassic flora as depicted in Meyers Konversations-Lexikon
(1885-90) Meyers b15 s0826b.jpg
Triassic flora as depicted in Meyers Konversations-Lexikon (1885–90)

Land plants

On land, the surviving vascular plants included the lycophytes, the dominant cycadophytes, ginkgophyta (represented in modern times by Ginkgo biloba ), ferns, horsetails and glossopterids. The spermatophytes, or seed plants, came to dominate the terrestrial flora: in the northern hemisphere, conifers, ferns and bennettitales flourished. The seed fern genus Dicroidium would dominate Gondwana throughout the period.

Coal

Immediately above the Permian-Triassic boundary the glossopteris flora was suddenly largely displaced by an Australia-wide coniferous flora. Prospect Hill Monterey Pine Forest.jpg
Immediately above the Permian–Triassic boundary the glossopteris flora was suddenly largely displaced by an Australia-wide coniferous flora.

No known coal deposits date from the start of the Triassic Period. This is known as the Early Triassic "coal gap" and can be seen as part of the Permian–Triassic extinction event. [37] Possible explanations for the coal gap include sharp drops in sea level at the time of the Permo-Triassic boundary; [38] acid rain from the Siberian Traps eruptions or from an impact event that overwhelmed acidic swamps; climate shift to a greenhouse climate that was too hot and dry for peat accumulation; evolution of fungi or herbivores that were more destructive of wetlands; the extinction of all plants adapted to peat swamps, with a hiatus of several million years before new plant species evolved that were adapted to peat swamps; [37] or soil anoxia as oxygen levels plummeted. [39]

Phytoplankton

Before the Permian extinction, Archaeplastida (red and green algae) had been the major marine phytoplanktons since about 659–645 million years ago, [40] when they replaced marine planktonic cyanobacteria, which first appeared about 800 million years ago, as the dominant phytoplankton in the oceans. [41] In the Triassic, secondary endosymbiotic algae became the most important plankton. [42]

Fauna

Middle Triassic marginal marine sequence, southwestern Utah Triassic Utah.JPG
Middle Triassic marginal marine sequence, southwestern Utah

Marine invertebrates

In marine environments, new modern types of corals appeared in the Early Triassic, forming small patches of reefs of modest extent compared to the great reef systems of Devonian or modern times. At the end of the Carnian, a reef crisis occurred in South China. [43] Serpulids appeared in the Middle Triassic. [44] Microconchids were abundant. The shelled cephalopods called ammonites recovered, diversifying from a single line that survived the Permian extinction. Bivalves began to rapidly diversify during the Middle Triassic, becoming highly abundant in the oceans. [45]

Fish

Birgeria Birgeria recon.jpg
Birgeria

In the wake of the Permian-Triassic mass extinction event, the fish fauna was remarkably uniform, with many families and genera exhibiting a cosmopolitan distribution. [46] Coelacanths show their highest post-Devonian diversity in the Early Triassic. [47] Ray-finned fishes (actinopterygians) went through a remarkable diversification in the beginning of the Triassic, leading to peak diversity during the Middle Triassic; however, the pattern of this diversification is still not well understood due to a taphonomic megabias. [48] The first stem-group teleosts appeared during the Triassic (teleosts are by far the most diverse group of fish today). [46] Predatory actinopterygians such as saurichthyids and birgeriids, some of which grew over 1.2 m (3.9 ft) in length, appeared in the Early Triassic and became widespread and successful during the period as a whole. [49] Lakes and rivers were populated by lungfish (Dipnoi), such as Ceratodus , which are mainly known from the dental plates, abundant in the fossils record. [50] Hybodonts, a group of shark-like cartilaginous fish, were dominant in both freshwater and marine environments throughout the Triassic. [51] Last survivors of the mainly Palaeozoic Eugeneodontida are known from the Early Triassic. [52]

Amphibians

Reconstruction of the Triassic amphibian Mastodonsaurus Mastodonsaurus3.jpg
Reconstruction of the Triassic amphibian Mastodonsaurus

Temnospondyl amphibians were among those groups that survived the Permian–Triassic extinction. Once abundant in both terrestrial and aquatic environments, the terrestrial species had mostly died out during the extinction event. The Triassic survivors were aquatic or semi-aquatic, and were represented by Tupilakosaurus , Thabanchuia , Branchiosauridae and Micropholis , all of which died out in Early Triassic, and the successful Stereospondyli, with survivors into the Cretaceous Period. The largest Triassic stereospondyls, such as Mastodonsaurus, were up to 4 to 6 metres (13 to 20 ft) in length. [53] [54] Some lineages (e.g. trematosaurs) flourished briefly in the Early Triassic, while others (e.g. capitosaurs) remained successful throughout the whole period, or only came to prominence in the Late Triassic (e.g. Plagiosaurus , metoposaurs).

The first Lissamphibians (modern amphibians) appear in the Triassic, with the progenitors of the first frogs already present by the Early Triassic. However, the group as a whole did not become common until the Jurassic, when the temnospondyls had become very rare.

Most of the Reptiliomorpha, stem-amniotes that gave rise to the amniotes, disappeared in the Triassic, but two water-dwelling groups survived: Embolomeri that only survived into the early part of the period, and the Chroniosuchia, which survived until the end of the Triassic.

Reptiles

Archosauromorphs

The Permian–Triassic extinction devastated terrestrial life. Biodiversity rebounded as the surviving species repopulated empty terrain, but these were short-lived. Diverse communities with complex food-web structures took 30 million years to reestablish. [10] [55] Archosauromorph reptiles, which had already appeared and diversified to an extent in the Permian Period, exploded in diversity as an adaptive radiation in response to the Permian-Triassic mass extinction. By the Early Triassic, several major archosauromorph groups had appeared. Long-necked, lizard-like early archosauromorphs were known as protorosaurs, which is likely a paraphyletic group rather than a true clade. Tanystropheids were a family of protorosaurs which elevated their neck size to extremes, with the largest genus Tanystropheus having a neck longer than its body. The protorosaur family Sharovipterygidae used their elongated hindlimbs for gliding. Other archosauromorphs, such as rhynchosaurs and allokotosaurs, were mostly stocky-bodied herbivores with specialized jaw structures.

Rhynchosaurs, barrel-gutted herbivores, thrived for only a short period of time, becoming extinct about 220 million years ago. They were exceptionally abundant in the middle of the Triassic, as the primary large herbivores in many Carnian-age ecosystems. They sheared plants with premaxillary beaks and plates along the upper jaw with multiple rows of teeth. Allokotosaurs were iguana-like reptiles, including Trilophosaurus (a common Late Triassic reptile with three-crowned teeth), Teraterpeton (which had a long beak-like snout), and Shringasaurus (a horned herbivore which reached a body length of 3–4 metres (9.8–13.1 ft).

One group of archosauromorphs, the archosauriforms, were distinguished by their active predatory lifestyle, with serrated teeth and upright limb postures. Archosauriforms were diverse in the Triassic, including various terrestrial and semiaquatic predators of all shapes and sizes. The large-headed and robust erythrosuchids were among the dominant carnivores in the early Triassic. Phytosaurs were a particularly common group which prospered during the Late Triassic. These long-snouted and semiaquatic predators resemble living crocodiles and probably had a similar lifestyle, hunting for fish and small reptiles around the water's edge. However, this resemblance is only superficial and is a prime-case of convergent evolution.

True archosaurs appeared in the early Triassic, splitting into two branches: Avemetatarsalia (the ancestors to birds) and Pseudosuchia (the ancestors to crocodilians). Avemetatarsalians were a minor component of their ecosystems, but eventually produced the earliest pterosaurs and dinosaurs in the Late Triassic. Early long-tailed pterosaurs appeared in the Norian and quickly spread worldwide. Triassic dinosaurs evolved in the Carnian and include early sauropodomorphs and theropods. Most Triassic dinosaurs were small predators and only a few were common, such as Coelophysis , which was 1 to 2 metres (3.3 to 6.6 ft) long. Triassic sauropodomorphs primarily inhabited cooler regions of the world. [56]

The large predator Smok was most likely also an archosaur, but it is uncertain if it was a primitive dinosaur or a pseudosuchian.

Pseudosuchians were far more ecologically dominant in the Triassic, including large herbivores (such as aetosaurs), large carnivores ("rauisuchians"), and the first crocodylomorphs ("sphenosuchians"). Aetosaurs were heavily-armored reptiles that were common during the last 30 million years of the Late Triassic until they died out at the Triassic-Jurassic extinction. Most aetosaurs were herbivorous and fed on low-growing plants, but some may have eaten meat. "rauisuchians" (formally known as paracrocodylomorphs) were the keystone predators of most Triassic terrestrial ecosystems. Over 25 species have been found, including giant quadrupedal hunters, sleek bipedal omnivores, and lumbering beasts with deep sails on their backs. They probably occupied the large-predator niche later filled by theropods. "Rauisuchians" were ancestral to small, lightly-built crocodylomorphs, the only pseudosuchians which survived into the Jurassic.

Marine reptiles

Marine vertebrate apex predators of the Early Triassic and Anisian (Middle Triassic) Triassic marine vertebrate apex predators.png
Marine vertebrate apex predators of the Early Triassic and Anisian (Middle Triassic)

There were many types of marine reptiles. These included the Sauropterygia, which featured pachypleurosaurus and nothosaurs (both common during the Middle Triassic, especially in the Tethys region), placodonts, the earliest known herbivorous marine reptile Atopodentatus, and the first plesiosaurs. The first of the lizardlike Thalattosauria (askeptosaurs) and the highly successful ichthyosaurs, which appeared in Early Triassic seas soon diversified, and some eventually developed to huge size during the Late Triassic.

Other reptiles

Among other reptiles, the earliest turtles, like Proganochelys and Proterochersis , appeared during the Norian Age (Stage) of the Late Triassic Period. The Lepidosauromorpha, specifically the Sphenodontia, are first found in the fossil record of the earlier Carnian Age, though the earliest lepidosauromorphs likely occurred in the Permian. The Procolophonidae, the last surviving parareptiles, were an important group of small lizard-like herbivores. The drepanosaurs were a clade of unusual, chameleon-like arboreal reptiles with birdlike heads and specialised claws.

Synapsids

Three therapsid groups survived into the Triassic: dicynodonts, therocephalians, and cynodonts. The cynodont Cynognathus was a characteristic top predator in the Olenekian and Anisian of Gondwana. Both kannemeyeriiform dicynodonts and gomphodont cynodonts remained important herbivores during much of the period. Therocephalians included both large predators ( Moschorhinus ) and herbivorous forms (bauriids) until their extinction midway through the period. Ecteniniid cynodonts played a role as large-sized, cursorial predators in the Late Triassic. During the Carnian (early part of the Late Triassic), some advanced cynodonts gave rise to the first mammals.

During the Triassic, archosaurs displaced therapsids as the largest and most ecologically prolific terrestrial amniotes. This "Triassic Takeover" may have contributed to the evolution of mammals by forcing the surviving therapsids and their mammaliaform successors to live as small, mainly nocturnal insectivores. Nocturnal life may have forced the mammaliaforms to develop fur and a higher metabolic rate. [58]

Lagerstätten

Two Early Triassic lagerstätten (high-quality fossil beds), the Dienerian aged Guiyang biota [59] and the earliest Spathian aged Paris biota [60] stand out due to their exceptional preservation and diversity. They represent the earliest lagerstätten of the Mesozoic era and provide insight into the biotic recovery from the Permian-Triassic mass extinction event.

The Monte San Giorgio lagerstätte, now in the Lake Lugano region of northern Italy and southern Switzerland, was in Middle Triassic times a lagoon behind reefs with an anoxic bottom layer, so there were no scavengers and little turbulence to disturb fossilization, a situation that can be compared to the better-known Jurassic Solnhofen Limestone lagerstätte. The remains of fish and various marine reptiles (including the common pachypleurosaur Neusticosaurus , and the bizarre long-necked archosauromorph Tanystropheus ), along with some terrestrial forms like Ticinosuchus and Macrocnemus , have been recovered from this locality. All these fossils date from the Anisian and Ladinian ages (about 242 Ma ago).

Triassic–Jurassic extinction event

The mass extinction event is marked by 'End Tr' Extinction Intensity.svg
The mass extinction event is marked by 'End Tr'

The Triassic Period ended with a mass extinction, which was particularly severe in the oceans; the conodonts disappeared, as did all the marine reptiles except ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs. Invertebrates like brachiopods and molluscs (such as gastropods) were severely affected. In the oceans, 22% of marine families and possibly about half of marine genera went missing.

Though the end-Triassic extinction event was not equally devastating in all terrestrial ecosystems, several important clades of crurotarsans (large archosaurian reptiles previously grouped together as the thecodonts) disappeared, as did most of the large labyrinthodont amphibians, groups of small reptiles, and most synapsids. Some of the early, primitive dinosaurs also became extinct, but more adaptive ones survived to evolve into the Jurassic. Surviving plants that went on to dominate the Mesozoic world included modern conifers and cycadeoids.

The cause of the Late Triassic extinction is uncertain. It was accompanied by huge volcanic eruptions that occurred as the supercontinent Pangaea began to break apart about 202 to 191 million years ago (40Ar/39Ar dates), [61] forming the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province (CAMP), [62] one of the largest known inland volcanic events since the planet had first cooled and stabilized. Other possible but less likely causes for the extinction events include global cooling or even a bolide impact, for which an impact crater containing Manicouagan Reservoir in Quebec, Canada, has been singled out. However, the Manicouagan impact melt has been dated to 214±1 Mya. The date of the Triassic-Jurassic boundary has also been more accurately fixed recently, at 201.4 Mya. Both dates are gaining accuracy by using more accurate forms of radiometric dating, in particular the decay of uranium to lead in zircons formed at time of the impact. So, the evidence suggests the Manicouagan impact preceded the end of the Triassic by approximately 10±2 Ma. It could not therefore be the immediate cause of the observed mass extinction. [63]

Skull of a Triassic Period phytosaur found in the Petrified Forest National Park Petrified Forest National Park-Rainbow Forest Museum-1.jpg
Skull of a Triassic Period phytosaur found in the Petrified Forest National Park

The number of Late Triassic extinctions is disputed. Some studies suggest that there are at least two periods of extinction towards the end of the Triassic, separated by 12 to 17 million years. But arguing against this is a recent study of North American faunas. In the Petrified Forest of northeast Arizona there is a unique sequence of late Carnian-early Norian terrestrial sediments. An analysis in 2002 found no significant change in the paleoenvironment. [64] Phytosaurs, the most common fossils there, experienced a change-over only at the genus level, and the number of species remained the same. Some aetosaurs, the next most common tetrapods, and early dinosaurs, passed through unchanged. However, both phytosaurs and aetosaurs were among the groups of archosaur reptiles completely wiped out by the end-Triassic extinction event.

It seems likely then that there was some sort of end-Carnian extinction, when several herbivorous archosauromorph groups died out, while the large herbivorous therapsids—the kannemeyeriid dicynodonts and the traversodont cynodonts—were much reduced in the northern half of Pangaea (Laurasia).

These extinctions within the Triassic and at its end allowed the dinosaurs to expand into many niches that had become unoccupied. Dinosaurs became increasingly dominant, abundant and diverse, and remained that way for the next 150 million years. The true "Age of Dinosaurs" is during the following Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, rather than the Triassic.

See also

Notes

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  2. McElwain, J. C.; Punyasena, S. W. (2007). "Mass extinction events and the plant fossil record". Trends in Ecology & Evolution. 22 (10): 548–557. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2007.09.003. PMID   17919771.
  3. Retallack, G. J.; Veevers, J.; Morante, R. (1996). "Global coal gap between Permian–Triassic extinctions and middle Triassic recovery of peat forming plants". GSA Bulletin. 108 (2): 195–207. Bibcode:1996GSAB..108..195R. doi:10.1130/0016-7606(1996)108<0195:GCGBPT>2.3.CO;2 . Retrieved 2007-09-29.
  4. Payne, J. L.; Lehrmann, D. J.; Wei, J.; Orchard, M. J.; Schrag, D. P.; Knoll, A. H. (2004). "Large Perturbations of the Carbon Cycle During Recovery from the End-Permian Extinction". Science. 305 (5683): 506–9. Bibcode:2004Sci...305..506P. doi:10.1126/science.1097023. PMID   15273391. S2CID   35498132.
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    "… bunter Sandstein, Muschelkalk und Keuper das Resultat einer Periode, ihre Versteinerungen, um mich der Worte E. de Beaumont's zu bedeinen, die Thermometer einer geologischen Epoche seyen, … also die bis jezt beobachtete Trennung dieser Gebilde in 3 Formationen nicht angemessen, und es mehr dem Begriffe Formation entsprechend sey, sie zu einer Formation, welche ich vorläufig Trias nennen will, zu verbinden."
    ( … colored sandstone, shell limestone, and mudstone are the result of a period; their fossils are, to avail myself of the words of E. de Beaumont, the thermometer of a geologic epoch; … thus the separation of these structures into 3 formations, which has been maintained until now, isn't appropriate, and it is more consistent with the concept of "formation" to join them into one formation, which for now I will name "trias".)
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Related Research Articles

The Mesozoic Era is the second-to-last era of Earth's geological history, lasting from about 252 to 66 million years ago, comprising the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods. It is characterized by the dominance of gymnosperms and of archosaurian reptiles, such as the dinosaurs; a hot greenhouse climate; and the tectonic break-up of Pangaea. The Mesozoic is the middle of the three eras since complex life evolved: the Paleozoic, the Mesozoic, and the Cenozoic.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Permian</span> Sixth and last period of the Paleozoic Era 299–252 million years ago

The Permian is a geologic period and stratigraphic system which spans 47 million years from the end of the Carboniferous Period 298.9 million years ago (Mya), to the beginning of the Triassic Period 251.902 Mya. It is the last period of the Paleozoic Era; the following Triassic Period belongs to the Mesozoic Era. The concept of the Permian was introduced in 1841 by geologist Sir Roderick Murchison, who named it after the region of Perm in Russia.

The Phanerozoic is the current and the latest of the four geologic eons in the Earth's geologic time scale, covering the time period from 538.8 million years ago to the present. It is the eon during which abundant animal and plant life has proliferated, diversified and colonized various niches on the Earth's surface, beginning with the Cambrian period when animals first developed hard shells that can be clearly preserved in the fossil record. The time before the Phanerozoic, collectively called the Precambrian, is now divided into the Hadean, Archaean and Proterozoic eons.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Triassic–Jurassic extinction event</span> Mass extinction ending the Triassic period

The Triassic–Jurassic (Tr-J) extinction event (TJME), often called the end-Triassic extinction, was a Mesozoic extinction event that marks the boundary between the Triassic and Jurassic periods, 201.4 million years ago, and is one of the top five major extinction events of the Phanerozoic eon, profoundly affecting life on land and in the oceans. In the seas, the entire class of conodonts and 23–34% of marine genera disappeared. On land, all archosauromorphs other than crocodylomorphs, pterosaurs, and dinosaurs became extinct; some of the groups which died out were previously abundant, such as aetosaurs, phytosaurs, and rauisuchids. Some remaining non-mammalian therapsids and many of the large temnospondyl amphibians had become extinct prior to the Jurassic as well. However, there is still much uncertainty regarding a connection between the Tr-J boundary and terrestrial vertebrates, due to a lack of terrestrial fossils from the Rhaetian (latest) stage of the Triassic. What was left fairly untouched were plants, crocodylomorphs, dinosaurs, pterosaurs and mammals; this allowed the dinosaurs, pterosaurs, and crocodylomorphs to become the dominant land animals for the next 135 million years.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Laurasia</span> Northern landmass that formed part of the Pangaea supercontinent

Laurasia was the more northern of two large landmasses that formed part of the Pangaea supercontinent from around 335 to 175 million years ago (Mya), the other being Gondwana. It separated from Gondwana 215 to 175 Mya during the breakup of Pangaea, drifting farther north after the split and finally broke apart with the opening of the North Atlantic Ocean c. 56 Mya. The name is a portmanteau of Laurentia and Asia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Archosaur</span> Group of diapsids broadly classified as reptiles

Archosauria is a clade of diapsid sauropsid tetrapods, with birds and crocodilians being the only living representatives. Archosaurs are broadly classified as reptiles, in the cladistic sense of the term, which includes birds. Extinct archosaurs include non-avian dinosaurs, pterosaurs and extinct relatives of crocodilians. Modern paleontologists define Archosauria as a crown group that includes the most recent common ancestor of living birds and crocodilians, and all of its descendants. The base of Archosauria splits into two clades: Pseudosuchia, which includes crocodilians and their extinct relatives; and Avemetatarsalia, which includes birds and their extinct relatives.

Phytosaurs are an extinct group of large, mostly semiaquatic Late Triassic archosauriform reptiles. Phytosaurs belong to the order Phytosauria. and are sometimes referred to as parasuchians. Phytosauria, Parasuchia, Parasuchidae, and Phytosauridae have often been considered equivalent groupings containing the same species. Some recent studies have offered a more nuanced approach, defining Parasuchidae and Phytosauridae as nested clades within Phytosauria as a whole. Phytosaurs were long-snouted and heavily armoured, bearing a remarkable resemblance to modern crocodilians in size, appearance, and lifestyle, as an example of convergence or parallel evolution

The Rhaetian is the latest age of the Triassic Period or the uppermost stage of the Triassic System. It was preceded by the Norian and succeeded by the Hettangian. The base of the Rhaetian lacks a formal GSSP, though candidate sections include Steinbergkogel in Austria and Pignola-Abriola in Italy. The end of the Rhaetian is more well-defined. According to the current ICS system, the Rhaetian ended 201.4 ± 0.2 Ma.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Carnian</span> First age of the Late Triassic epoch

The Carnian is the lowermost stage of the Upper Triassic Series. It lasted from 237 to 227 million years ago (Ma). The Carnian is preceded by the Ladinian and is followed by the Norian. Its boundaries are not characterized by major extinctions or biotic turnovers, but a climatic event occurred during the Carnian and seems to be associated with important extinctions or biotic radiations. Another extinction occurred at the Carnian-Norian boundary, ending the Carnian age.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Early Triassic</span> First of three epochs of the Triassic Period

The Early Triassic is the first of three epochs of the Triassic Period of the geologic timescale. It spans the time between 251.9 Ma and 247.2 Ma. Rocks from this epoch are collectively known as the Lower Triassic Series, which is a unit in chronostratigraphy. The Early Triassic is the oldest epoch of the Mesozoic Era. It is preceded by the Lopingian Epoch and followed by the Middle Triassic Epoch. The Early Triassic is divided into the Induan and Olenekian ages. The Induan is subdivided into the Griesbachian and Dienerian subages and the Olenekian is subdivided into the Smithian and Spathian subages.

The Late Triassic is the third and final epoch of the Triassic Period in the geologic time scale, spanning the time between 237 Ma and 201.4 Ma. It is preceded by the Middle Triassic Epoch and followed by the Early Jurassic Epoch. The corresponding series of rock beds is known as the Upper Triassic. The Late Triassic is divided into the Carnian, Norian and Rhaetian ages.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Geological history of Earth</span> The sequence of major geological events in Earths past

The geological history of the Earth follows the major geological events in Earth's past based on the geological time scale, a system of chronological measurement based on the study of the planet's rock layers (stratigraphy). Earth formed about 4.54 billion years ago by accretion from the solar nebula, a disk-shaped mass of dust and gas left over from the formation of the Sun, which also created the rest of the Solar System.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thalattosauria</span> Extinct order of sea reptiles

Thalattosauria is an extinct order of prehistoric marine reptiles that lived in the Middle to Late Triassic. Thalattosaurs were diverse in size and shape, and are divided into two superfamilies: Askeptosauroidea and Thalattosauroidea. Askeptosauroids were endemic to the Tethys Ocean, their fossils have been found in Europe and China, and they were likely semiaquatic fish eaters with straight snouts and decent terrestrial abilities. Thalattosauroids were more specialized for aquatic life and most had unusual downturned snouts and crushing dentition. Thalattosauroids lived along the coasts of both Panthalassa and the Tethys Ocean, and were most diverse in China and western North America. The largest species of thalattosaurs grew to over 4 meters (13 feet) in length, including a long, flattened tail utilized in underwater propulsion. Although thalattosaurs bore a superficial resemblance to lizards, their exact relationships are unresolved. They are widely accepted as diapsids, but experts have variously placed them on the reptile family tree among Lepidosauromorpha, Archosauromorpha, ichthyosaurs, and/or other marine reptiles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gondwana</span> Neoproterozoic to Cretaceous landmass

Gondwana was a large landmass, sometimes referred to as a supercontinent. It was formed by the accretion of several cratons, beginning c. 800 to 650Ma with the East African Orogeny, the collision of India and Madagascar with East Africa, and culminating in c. 600 to 530 Ma with the overlapping Brasiliano and Kuunga orogenies, the collision of South America with Africa, and the addition of Australia and Antarctica, respectively. Eventually, Gondwana became the largest piece of continental crust of the Palaeozoic Era, covering an area of some 100,000,000 km2 (39,000,000 sq mi), about one-fifth of the Earth's surface. It fused with Euramerica during the Carboniferous to form Pangea. It began to separate from northern Pangea (Laurasia) during the Triassic, and started to fragment during the Early Jurassic. The final stages of break-up, involving the separation of Antarctica from South America and Australia, occurred during the Paleogene (from around 66 to 23 million years ago. Gondwana was not considered a supercontinent by the earliest definition, since the landmasses of Baltica, Laurentia, and Siberia were separated from it. To differentiate it from the Indian region of the same name, it is also commonly called Gondwanaland.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pangaea</span> Supercontinent from the late Paleozoic to early Mesozoic eras

Pangaea or Pangea was a supercontinent that existed during the late Paleozoic and early Mesozoic eras. It assembled from the earlier continental units of Gondwana, Euramerica and Siberia during the Carboniferous approximately 335 million years ago, and began to break apart about 200 million years ago, at the end of the Triassic and beginning of the Jurassic. In contrast to the present Earth and its distribution of continental mass, Pangaea was C-shaped, with the bulk of its mass stretching between Earth's northern and southern polar regions and surrounded by the superocean Panthalassa and the Paleo-Tethys and subsequent Tethys Oceans. Pangaea is the most recent supercontinent to have existed and the first to be reconstructed by geologists.

A paleocontinent or palaeocontinent is a distinct area of continental crust that existed as a major landmass in the geological past. There have been many different landmasses throughout Earth's time. They range in sizes, some are just a collection of small microcontinents while others are large conglomerates of crust. As time progresses and sea levels rise and fall more crust can be exposed making way for larger landmasses. The continents of the past shaped the evolution of organisms on Earth and contributed to the climate of the globe as well. As landmasses break apart, species are separated and those that were once the same now have evolved to their new climate. The constant movement of these landmasses greatly determines the distribution of organisms on Earth's surface. This is evident with how similar fossils are found on completely separate continents. Also, as continents move, mountain building events (orogenies) occur, causing a shift in the global climate as new rock is exposed and then there is more exposed rock at higher elevations. This causes glacial ice expansion and an overall cooler global climate. The movement of the continents greatly affects the overall dispersal of organisms throughout the world and the trend in climate throughout Earth's history. Examples include Laurentia, Baltica and Avalonia, which collided together during the Caledonian orogeny to form the Old Red Sandstone paleocontinent of Laurussia. Another example includes a collision that occurred during the late Pennsylvanian and early Permian time when there was a collision between the two continents of Tarimsky and Kirghiz-Kazakh. This collision was caused because of their askew convergence when the paleoceanic basin closed.

The Norian is a division of the Triassic Period. It has the rank of an age (geochronology) or stage (chronostratigraphy). It lasted from ~227 to 208.5 million years ago. It was preceded by the Carnian and succeeded by the Rhaetian.

The geological history of North America comprises the history of geological occurrences and emergence of life in North America during the interval of time spanning from the formation of the Earth through to the emergence of humanity and the start of prehistory. At the start of the Paleozoic Era, what is now "North" America was actually in the Southern Hemisphere. Marine life flourished in the country's many seas, although terrestrial life had not yet evolved. During the latter part of the Paleozoic, seas were largely replaced by swamps home to amphibians and early reptiles. When the continents had assembled into Pangaea, drier conditions prevailed. The evolutionary precursors to mammals dominated the country until a mass extinction event ended their reign.

The Carnian pluvial episode (CPE), often called the Carnian pluvial event, was an interval of major change in global climate that was synchronous with significant changes in Earth's biota both in the sea and on land. It occurred during the latter part of the Carnian Stage, a subdivision of the late Triassic period, and lasted for perhaps 1–2 million years.

Land vertebrate faunachrons (LVFs) are biochronological units used to correlate and date terrestrial sediments and fossils based on their tetrapod faunas. First formulated on a global scale by Spencer G. Lucas in 1998, LVFs are primarily used within the Triassic Period, though Lucas later designated LVFs for other periods as well. Eight worldwide LVFs are defined for the Triassic. The first two earliest Triassic LVFs, the Lootsbergian and Nonesian, are based on South African synapsids and faunal assemblage zones estimated to correspond to the Early Triassic. These are followed by the Perovkan and Berdyankian, based on temnospondyl amphibians and Russian assemblages estimated to be from the Middle Triassic. The youngest four Triassic LVFs, the Otischalkian, Adamanian, Revueltian, and Apachean, are based on aetosaur and phytosaur reptiles common in the Late Triassic of the southwestern United States.

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