Defecation in communal latrines is a common behaviour of extant mammals widely distributed among megaherbivores. This behaviour has key social functions with important biological and ecological implications. Herbivore communal latrines are only documented among mammals and their fossil record is exceptionally restricted to the late Cenozoic. Here we report the discovery of several massive coprolite associations in the Middle-Late Triassic of the Chañares Formation, Argentina, which represent fossil communal latrines based on a high areal density, small areal extension and taphonomic attributes. Several lines of evidence (size, morphology, abundance and coprofabrics) and their association with kannemeyeriiform dicynodonts indicate that these large synapsids produced the communal latrines and had a gregarious behaviour comparable to that of extant megaherbivores. This is the first evidence of megaherbivore communal latrines in non-mammal vertebrates, indicating that this mammal-type behaviour was present in distant relatives of mammals, and predates its previous oldest record by 220 Mya.
Many lizards can drop a portion of their tail in response to an attack by a predator, a behaviour known as caudal autotomy. The capacity for intravertebral autotomy among modern reptiles suggests that it evolved in the lepidosaur branch of reptilian evolution, because no such vertebral features are known in turtles or crocodilians. Here we present the first detailed evidence of the oldest known case of caudal autotomy, found only among members of the Early Permian captorhinids, a group of ancient reptiles that diversified extensively and gained a near global distribution before the end-Permian mass extinction event of the Palaeozoic. Histological and SEM evidence show that these early reptiles were the first amniotes that could autotomize their tails, likely as an anti-predatory behaviour. As in modern iguanid lizards, smaller captorhinids were able to drop their tails as juveniles, presumably as a mechanism to evade a predator, whereas larger individuals may have gradually lost this ability. Caudal autotomy in captorhinid reptiles highlights the antiquity of this anti-predator behaviour in a small member of a terrestrial community composed predominantly of larger amphibian and synapsid predators.
Birds, dinosaurs, crocodilians, pterosaurs and their close relatives form the highly diverse clade Archosauriformes. Archosauriforms have a deep evolutionary history, originating in the late Permian, prior to the end-Permian mass extinction, and radiating in the Triassic to dominate Mesozoic ecosystems. However, the origins of this clade and its extraordinarily successful body plan remain obscure. Here, we describe an exceptionally preserved fossil skull from the Lower Triassic of Brazil, representing a new species, Teyujagua paradoxa, transitional in morphology between archosauriforms and more primitive reptiles. This skull reveals for the first time the mosaic assembly of key features of the archosauriform skull, including the antorbital and mandibular fenestrae, serrated teeth, and closed lower temporal bar. Phylogenetic analysis recovers Teyujagua as the sister taxon to Archosauriformes, and is congruent with a two-phase model of early archosauriform evolution, in response to two mass extinctions occurring at the end of the Guadalupian and the Permian.
West Texas' Permian Basin, consisting of ancient marine rocks, is underlain by water-soluble rocks and multiple oil-rich formations. In the region that is densely populated with oil producing facilities, many localized geohazards, such as ground subsidence and micro-earthquakes, have gone unnoticed. Here we identify the localized geohazards in West Texas, using the satellite radar interferometry from newly launched radar satellites that provide radar images freely to public for the first time, and probe the causal mechanisms of ground deformation, encompassing oil/gas production activities and subsurface geological characteristics. Based on our observations and analyses, human activities of fluid (saltwater, CO2) injection for stimulation of hydrocarbon production, salt dissolution in abandoned oil facilities, and hydrocarbon extraction each have negative impacts on the ground surface and infrastructures, including possible induced seismicity. Proactive continuous and detailed monitoring of ground deformation from space over the currently operating and the previously operated oil/gas production facilities, as demonstrated by this research, is essential to securing the safety of humanity, preserving property, and sustaining the growth of the hydrocarbon production industry.
The vertebrate recovery after the end-Permian mass extinction can be approached through the ichnological record, which is much more abundant than body fossils. The late Olenekian (Early Triassic) tetrapod ichnoassemblage of the Catalan Pyrenean Basin is the most complete and diverse of this age from Western Tethys. This extensional basin, composed of several depocenters, was formed in the latest phases of the Variscan orogeny (Pangea breakup) and was infilled by braided and meandering fluvial systems of the red-beds Buntsandstein facies. Abundant and diverse tetrapod ichnites are recorded in these facies, including Prorotodactylus mesaxonichnus isp. nov. (tracks possibly produced by euparkeriids), cf. Rotodactylus, at least two large chirotheriid morphotypes (archosauriform trackmakers), Rhynchosauroides cf. schochardti, two other undetermined Rhynchosauroides forms, an undetermined Morphotype A (archosauromorph trackmakers) and two types of Characichnos isp. (swimming traces, here associated to archosauromorph trackmakers). The Pyrenean ichnoassemblage suggests a relatively homogeneous ichnofaunal composition through the late Early Triassic of Central Pangea, characterized by the presence of Prorotodactylus and Rotodactylus. Small archosauromorph tracks dominate and present a wide distribution through the different fluviatile facies of the Triassic Pyrenean Basin, with large archosaurian footprints being present in a lesser degree. Archosauromorphs radiated and diversified through the Triassic vertebrate recovery, which ultimately lead to the archosaur and dinosaur dominance of the Mesozoic.
Anomalous peaks of nickel abundance have been reported in Permian-Triassic boundary sections in China, Israel, Eastern Europe, Spitzbergen, and the Austrian Carnic Alps. New solution ICP-MS results of enhanced nickel from P-T boundary sections in Hungary, Japan, and Spiti, India suggest that the nickel anomalies at the end of the Permian were a worldwide phenomenon. We propose that the source of the nickel anomalies at the P-T boundary were Ni-rich volatiles released by the Siberian volcanism, and by coeval Ni-rich magma intrusions. The peaks in nickel abundance correlate with negative δ(13)C and δ(18)O anomalies, suggesting that explosive reactions between magma and coal during the Siberian flood-basalt eruptions released large amounts of CO2 and CH4 into the atmosphere, causing severe global warming and subsequent mass extinction. The nickel anomalies may provide a timeline in P-T boundary sections, and the timing of the peaks supports the Siberian Traps as a contributor to the latest Permian mass extinction.
New high-resolution U-Pb dates indicate a duration of 89 ± 38 kyr for the Permian hiatus and of 14 ± 57 kyr for the overlying Triassic microbial limestone in shallow water settings of the Nanpanjiang Basin, South China. The age and duration of the hiatus coincides with the Permian-Triassic boundary (PTB) and the extinction interval in the Meishan Global Stratotype Section and Point, and strongly supports a glacio-eustatic regression, which best explains the genesis of the worldwide hiatus straddling the PTB in shallow water records. In adjacent deep marine troughs, rates of sediment accumulation display a six-fold decrease across the PTB compatible with a dryer and cooler climate as indicated by terrestrial plants. Our model of the Permian-Triassic boundary mass extinction (PTBME) hinges on the synchronicity of the hiatus with the onset of the Siberian Traps volcanism. This early eruptive phase released sulfur-rich volatiles into the stratosphere, thus simultaneously eliciting a short-lived ice age responsible for the global regression and a brief but intense acidification. Abrupt cooling, shrunk habitats on shelves and acidification may all have synergistically triggered the PTBME. Subsequently, the build-up of volcanic CO2 induced a transient cool climate whose early phase saw the deposition of the microbial limestone.
We examined the evolutionary history of leading multidrug resistant hospital pathogens, the enterococci, to their origin hundreds of millions of years ago. Our goal was to understand why, among the vast diversity of gut flora, enterococci are so well adapted to the modern hospital environment. Molecular clock estimation, together with analysis of their environmental distribution, phenotypic diversity, and concordance with host fossil records, place the origins of the enterococci around the time of animal terrestrialization, 425-500 mya. Speciation appears to parallel the diversification of hosts, including the rapid emergence of new enterococcal species following the End Permian Extinction. Major drivers of speciation include changing carbohydrate availability in the host gut. Life on land would have selected for the precise traits that now allow pathogenic enterococci to survive desiccation, starvation, and disinfection in the modern hospital, foreordaining their emergence as leading hospital pathogens.
Generally Early Triassic floras are believed to be depauperate, suffering from protracted recovery following the Permian-Triassic extinction event. Here we present palynological data of an expanded East Greenland section documenting recovered floras in the basal Triassic (Griesbachian) and a subsequent fundamental floral turnover, postdating the Permian-Triassic boundary extinction by about 500 kyrs. This event is marked by a swap in dominating floral elements, changing from gymnosperm pollen-dominated associations in the Griesbachian to lycopsid spore-dominated assemblages in the Dienerian. This turnover coincides with an extreme δ(13)Corg negative shift revealing a severe environmental crisis, probably induced by volcanic outbursts of the Siberian Traps, accompanied by a climatic turnover, changing from cool and dry in the Griesbachian to hot and humid in the Dienerian. Estimates of sedimentation rates suggest that this environmental alteration took place within some 1000 years. Similar, coeval changes documented on the North Indian Margin (Pakistan) and the Bowen Basin (Australia) indicate the global extent of this crisis. Our results evidence the first profound disruption of the recovery of terrestrial environments about 500kyrs after the Permian-Triassic extinction event. It was followed by another crisis, about 1myrs later thus, the Early Triassic can be characterised as a time of successive environmental crises.
Explaining the ~5-million-year delay in marine biotic recovery following the latest Permian mass extinction, the largest biotic crisis of the Phanerozoic, is a fundamental challenge for both geological and biological sciences. Ocean redox perturbations may have played a critical role in this delayed recovery. However, the lack of quantitative constraints on the details of Early Triassic oceanic anoxia (for example, time, duration, and extent) leaves the links between oceanic conditions and the delayed biotic recovery ambiguous. We report high-resolution U-isotope (δ238U) data from carbonates of the uppermost Permian to lowermost Middle Triassic Zal section (Iran) to characterize the timing and global extent of ocean redox variation during the Early Triassic. Our δ238U record reveals multiple negative shifts during the Early Triassic. Isotope mass-balance modeling suggests that the global area of anoxic seafloor expanded substantially in the Early Triassic, peaking during the latest Permian to mid-Griesbachian, the late Griesbachian to mid-Dienerian, the Smithian-Spathian transition, and the Early/Middle Triassic transition. Comparisons of the U-, C-, and Sr-isotope records with a modeled seawater PO43- concentration curve for the Early Triassic suggest that elevated marine productivity and enhanced oceanic stratification were likely the immediate causes of expanded oceanic anoxia. The patterns of redox variation documented by the U-isotope record show a good first-order correspondence to peaks in ammonoid extinctions during the Early Triassic. Our results indicate that multiple oscillations in oceanic anoxia modulated the recovery of marine ecosystems following the latest Permian mass extinction.