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Concept: Permian–Triassic extinction event


Studies of the effects of mass extinctions on ancient ecosystems have focused on changes in taxic diversity, morphological disparity, abundance, behaviour and resource availability as key determinants of group survival. Crucially, the contribution of life history traits to survival during terrestrial mass extinctions has not been investigated, despite the critical role of such traits for population viability. We use bone microstructure and body size data to investigate the palaeoecological implications of changes in life history strategies in the therapsid forerunners of mammals before and after the Permo-Triassic Mass Extinction (PTME), the most catastrophic crisis in Phanerozoic history. Our results are consistent with truncated development, shortened life expectancies, elevated mortality rates and higher extinction risks amongst post-extinction species. Various simulations of ecological dynamics indicate that an earlier onset of reproduction leading to shortened generation times could explain the persistence of therapsids in the unpredictable, resource-limited Early Triassic environments, and help explain observed body size distributions of some disaster taxa (e.g., Lystrosaurus). Our study accounts for differential survival in mammal ancestors after the PTME and provides a methodological framework for quantifying survival strategies in other vertebrates during major biotic crises.

Concepts: Dicynodont, Extinction, Triassic, Permian–Triassic extinction event, Extinction event, Synapsid, Ecology, Dinosaur


The early evolution of archosauromorphs (bird- and crocodile-line archosaurs and stem-archosaurs) represents an important case of adaptive radiation that occurred in the aftermath of the Permo-Triassic mass extinction. Here we enrich the early archosauromorph record with the description of a moderately large (3-4 m in total length), herbivorous new allokotosaurian, Shringasaurus indicus, from the early Middle Triassic of India. The most striking feature of Shringasaurus indicus is the presence of a pair of large supraorbital horns that resemble those of some ceratopsid dinosaurs. The presence of horns in the new species is dimorphic and, as occurs in horned extant bovid mammals, these structures were probably sexually selected and used as weapons in intraspecific combats. The relatively large size and unusual anatomy of Shringasaurus indicus broadens the morphological diversity of Early-Middle Triassic tetrapods and complements the understanding of the evolutionary mechanisms involved in the early archosauromorph diversification.

Concepts: Archosauromorpha, Archosaur, Extinction event, Permian–Triassic extinction event, Extinction, Triassic, Evolution, Dinosaur


Mass extinction events are short-lived and characterized by catastrophic biosphere collapse and subsequent reorganization. Their abrupt nature necessitates a similarly short-lived trigger, and large igneous province magmatism is often implicated. However, large igneous provinces are long-lived compared to mass extinctions. Therefore, if large igneous provinces are an effective trigger, a subinterval of magmatism must be responsible for driving deleterious environmental effects. The onset of Earth’s most severe extinction, the end-Permian, coincided with an abrupt change in the emplacement style of the contemporaneous Siberian Traps large igneous province, from dominantly flood lavas to sill intrusions. Here we identify the initial emplacement pulse of laterally extensive sills as the critical deadly interval. Heat from these sills exposed untapped volatile-fertile sediments to contact metamorphism, likely liberating the massive greenhouse gas volumes needed to drive extinction. These observations suggest that large igneous provinces characterized by sill complexes are more likely to trigger catastrophic global environmental change than their flood basalt- and/or dike-dominated counterparts.Although the mass end-Permian extinction is linked to large igneous provinces, its trigger remains unclear. Here, the authors propose that the abrupt change from flood lavas to sills resulted in the heating of sediments and led to the release of large-scale greenhouse gases to drive the end-Permian extinction.

Concepts: Siberian Traps, Permian–Triassic extinction event, Extinction, Earth, Dinosaur, Basalt, Large igneous province, Extinction event


Dinosaurs diversified in two steps during the Triassic. They originated about 245 Ma, during the recovery from the Permian-Triassic mass extinction, and then remained insignificant until they exploded in diversity and ecological importance during the Late Triassic. Hitherto, this Late Triassic explosion was poorly constrained and poorly dated. Here we provide evidence that it followed the Carnian Pluvial Episode (CPE), dated to 234-232 Ma, a time when climates switched from arid to humid and back to arid again. Our evidence comes from a combined analysis of skeletal evidence and footprint occurrences, and especially from the exquisitely dated ichnofaunas of the Italian Dolomites. These provide evidence of tetrapod faunal compositions through the Carnian and Norian, and show that dinosaur footprints appear exactly at the time of the CPE. We argue then that dinosaurs diversified explosively in the mid Carnian, at a time of major climate and floral change and the extinction of key herbivores, which the dinosaurs opportunistically replaced.

Concepts: Climate, Extinction event, Extinction, Carnian, Norian, Permian–Triassic extinction event, Triassic, Dinosaur


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


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: Earth, Ice, Triassic, Extinction event, Water, Dinosaur, 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, Siberian Traps, Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event, Permian, Extinction event, Dinosaur, Triassic, Permian–Triassic extinction event


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


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


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.

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