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Concept: Permian


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.

Concepts: Ecology, Synapsid, Fossil, Paleontology, Dinosaur, Triassic, Mesozoic, Permian


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.

Concepts: Reptile, Tetrapod, Synapsid, Lizard, Amniote, Carboniferous, Permian, Anapsid


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.

Concepts: Evolution, Extinction, Synapsid, Dinosaur, Extinction event, Triassic, Archosaur, Permian


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.

Concepts: Dinosaur, Carboniferous, Pyrenees, Triassic, Archosaur, Permian, Archosauromorpha, Devonian


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.

Concepts: Global warming, Dinosaur, Extinction event, Triassic, Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event, Permian, Permian–Triassic extinction event, Siberian Traps


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.

Concepts: Immune system, Natural selection, Bacteria, Evolution, Species, Evolutionary biology, Dinosaur, Permian


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.

Concepts: Water, Earth, Ice, Dinosaur, Extinction event, Triassic, Permian, Permian–Triassic extinction event


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.

Concepts: Crisis, Dinosaur, Extinction event, Triassic, Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event, Permian, Permian–Triassic extinction event, Siberian Traps


The end-Permian mass extinction constituted the most devastating biotic crisis of the Phanerozoic. Its aftermath was characterized by harsh marine conditions incorporating volcanically induced oceanic warming, widespread anoxia and acidification. Bio-productivity accordingly experienced marked fluctuations. In particular, low palaeolatitude hard substrate communities from shallow seas fringing Western Pangaea and the Tethyan Realm were extremely impoverished, being dominated by monogeneric colonies of filter-feeding microconchid tubeworms. Here we present the first equivalent field data for Boreal hard substrate assemblages from the earliest Triassic (Induan) of East Greenland. This region bordered a discrete bio-realm situated at mid-high palaeolatitude (>30°N). Nevertheless, hard substrate biotas were compositionally identical to those from elsewhere, with microconchids encrusting Claraia bivalves and algal buildups on the sea floor. Biostratigraphical correlation further shows that Boreal microconchids underwent progressive tube modification and unique taxic diversification concordant with changing habitats over time. We interpret this as a post-extinction recovery and adaptive radiation sequence that mirrored coeval subequatorial faunas, and thus confirms hard substrate ecosystem depletion as a hallmark of the earliest Triassic interval globally.

Concepts: Ecology, Extinction, Dinosaur, Carboniferous, Extinction event, Triassic, Permian, Permian–Triassic extinction event


The Permian and Triassic were key time intervals in the history of life on Earth. Both periods are marked by a series of biotic crises including the most catastrophic of such events, the end-Permian mass extinction, which eventually led to a major turnover from typical Palaeozoic faunas and floras to those that are emblematic for the Mesozoic and Cenozoic. Here we review patterns in Permian-Triassic bony fishes, a group whose evolutionary dynamics are understudied. Based on data from primary literature, we analyse changes in their taxonomic diversity and body size (as a proxy for trophic position) and explore their response to Permian-Triassic events. Diversity and body size are investigated separately for different groups of Osteichthyes (Dipnoi, Actinistia, ‘Palaeopterygii’, ‘Subholostei’, Holostei, Teleosteomorpha), within the marine and freshwater realms and on a global scale (total diversity) as well as across palaeolatitudinal belts. Diversity is also measured for different palaeogeographical provinces. Our results suggest a general trend from low osteichthyan diversity in the Permian to higher levels in the Triassic. Diversity dynamics in the Permian are marked by a decline in freshwater taxa during the Cisuralian. An extinction event during the end-Guadalupian crisis is not evident from our data, but ‘palaeopterygians’ experienced a significant body size increase across the Guadalupian-Lopingian boundary and these fishes upheld their position as large, top predators from the Late Permian to the Late Triassic. Elevated turnover rates are documented at the Permian-Triassic boundary, and two distinct diversification events are noted in the wake of this biotic crisis, a first one during the Early Triassic (dipnoans, actinistians, ‘palaeopterygians’, ‘subholosteans’) and a second one during the Middle Triassic (‘subholosteans’, neopterygians). The origination of new, small taxa predominantly among these groups during the Middle Triassic event caused a significant reduction in osteichthyan body size. Neopterygii, the clade that encompasses the vast majority of extant fishes, underwent another diversification phase in the Late Triassic. The Triassic radiation of Osteichthyes, predominantly of Actinopterygii, which only occurred after severe extinctions among Chondrichthyes during the Middle-Late Permian, resulted in a profound change within global fish communities, from chondrichthyan-rich faunas of the Permo-Carboniferous to typical Mesozoic and Cenozoic associations dominated by actinopterygians. This turnover was not sudden but followed a stepwise pattern, with leaps during extinction events.

Concepts: Extinction, Dinosaur, Carboniferous, Extinction event, Triassic, Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event, Permian, Permian–Triassic extinction event