The Triassic ( ) is a geologic period and system which spans 50.6 million years from the end of the Permian Period 251.9 million years ago (Mya), to the beginning of the Jurassic Period 201.3 Mya. 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.
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. Therapsids and 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.
The first true mammals, themselves a specialized subgroup of therapsids, also evolved during this period, as well as the first flying vertebrates, the pterosaurs, who, like the dinosaurs, were a specialized subgroup of archosaurs. The vast supercontinent of Pangaea existed until the mid-Triassic, after which 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, 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 and allowed dinosaurs to assume dominance in the Jurassic.
Selected article on the Triassic world and its legacies
are a diverse order
of small to giant tetrapods
—often considered primitive amphibians
—that flourished worldwide during the Carboniferous
, and Triassic
periods. A few species continued into the Cretaceous
. Fossils have been found on every continent. During about 210 million years of evolutionary history, they adapted to a wide range of habitats, including fresh water, terrestrial, and even coastal marine environments. Their life history is well understood, with fossils known from the larval
, and maturity. Most temnospondyls were semiaquatic, although some were almost fully terrestrial, returning to the water only to breed. These temnospondyls were some of the first vertebrates fully adapted to life on land. Although temnospondyls are considered amphibians, many had characteristics, such as scales, claws, and armor-like bony plates, that distinguish them from modern amphibians.
Authorities disagree over whether temnospondyls were ancestral to modern amphibians (frogs, salamanders, and caecilians), or whether the whole group died out without leaving any descendants. Different hypotheses have placed modern amphibians as the descendants of temnospondyls, another group of early tetrapods called lepospondyls, or even as descendants of both groups (with caecilians evolving from lepospondyls and frogs and salamanders evolving from temnospondyls). Recent studies place a family of temnosondyls called the amphibamids as the closest relatives of modern amphibians. Similarities in teeth, skulls, and hearing structures link the two groups. (see more...)
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Illustration of some fossils of marine and terrestrial animals of the Triassic age from Book 15 of the 4th edition of Meyers Konversations-Lexikon (1885–90).
Photo credit: User:Red Rooster
Selected article on the Triassic in human science, culture and economics
The history of paleontology
traces the history of the effort to study the fossil
record left behind by ancient life forms. Although fossils had been studied by scholars since ancient times, the nature of fossils and their relationship to life in the past became better understood during the 17th and 18th centuries. At the end of the 18th century the work of Georges Cuvier
ended a long running debate about the reality of extinction
and led to the emergence of paleontology
as a scientific discipline.
The first half of the 19th century saw paleontological activity become increasingly well organized. This contributed to a rapid increase in knowledge about the history of life on Earth, and progress towards definition of the geologic time scale. As knowledge of life's history continued to improve, it became increasingly obvious that there had been some kind of successive order to the development of life. After Charles Darwin published Origin of Species in 1859, much of the focus of paleontology shifted to understanding evolutionary paths.
The last half of the 19th century saw a tremendous expansion in paleontological activity, especially in North America. The trend continued in the 20th century with additional regions of the Earth being opened to systematic fossil collection, as demonstrated by a series of important discoveries in China near the end of the 20th century. There was also a renewed interest in the Cambrian explosion that saw the development of the body plans of most animal phyla. (see more...)
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