Late Triassic

The Late Triassic is the third and final of three epochs of the Triassic Period in the geologic timescale. The Triassic-Jurassic extinction event began during this epoch and is one of the five major mass extinction events of the Earth. The corresponding series is known as the Upper Triassic. In Europe the epoch was called the Keuper, after a German lithostratigraphic group (a sequence of rock strata) that has a roughly corresponding age. The Late Triassic spans the time between 237 Ma and 201.3 Ma (million years ago). The Late Triassic is divided into the Carnian, Norian and Rhaetian ages.

Many of the first dinosaurs evolved during the Late Triassic, including Plateosaurus, Coelophysis, and Eoraptor.

The extinction event that began during the Late Triassic resulted in the disappearance of about 76% of all terrestrial and marine life species, as well as almost 20% of taxonomic families. Although the Late Triassic Epoch did not prove to be as destructive as the preceding Permian Period, which took place approximately 50 million years earlier and destroyed about 70% of land species, 57% of insect families as well as 95% of marine life, it resulted in great decreased in population sizes of many living organism populations.

Specifically, the Late Triassic had negative effects on the conodonts and ammonoid groups. These groups once served as vital index fossils, which made it possible to identify feasible life span to multiple strata of the Triassic strata. These groups were severely affected during the epoch, and became extinct soon after. Despite the large populations that withered away with the coming of the Late Triassic, many families, such as the pterosaurs, crocodiles, mammals and fish were very minimally affected. However, such families as the bivalves, gastropods, marine reptiles and brachiopods were greatly affected and many species became extinct during this time.

Age (Ma)
Jurassic Lower/
Hettangian younger
Triassic Upper/
Rhaetian 201.3 ~208.5
Norian ~208.5 ~227
Carnian ~227 ~237
Middle Ladinian ~237 ~242
Anisian ~242 247.2
Olenekian 247.2 251.2
Induan 251.2 251.902
Permian Lopingian Changhsingian older
Subdivision of the Triassic system
according to the ICS, as of 2018.[1]

Causes of the extinction

Most of the evidence suggests the increase of volcanic activity was the main cause of the extinction. As a result of the rifting of the super continent Pangea, there was an increase in widespread volcanic activity which released large amounts of carbon dioxide. At the end of the Triassic period, massive eruptions occurred along the rift zone, known as the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province, for about 500,000 years. These intense eruptions were classified as flood basalt eruptions, which are a type of large scale volcanic activity that releases a huge volume of lava in addition to sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide. The sudden increase in carbon dioxide levels is believed to have enhanced the greenhouse effect, which acidified the oceans and raised average air temperature. As a result of the change in biological conditions in the oceans, 22% of marine families became extinct. In addition, 53% of marine genera and about 76–86% of all species became extinct, which vacated ecological niches; thus, enabling dinosaurs to become the dominant presence in the Jurassic period. While the majority of the scientists agree that volcanic activity was the main cause of the extinction, other theories suggest the extinction was triggered by the impact of an asteroid, climate change, or rising sea levels.

Carnian Age

The Carnian Age is the first stage of the three to occur during the duration of the mass extinction era. The Carnian age developed about 228 to 217 million years ago, and signals the start of the Late Triassic Epoch. The Carnian stage can further be broken down to relative species activity during the time, based on fossils and evidence found dating back to this time period. For example, marine life such as serenites nanseni and Trachyceras Obesum can be dated back to the early Carnian stage. Meanwhile, Tropites Dilleri, Tropites Welleri and klamathites macrolobatus can all be dated back to the late Carnian stage, During the Carnian era, archosaurs took on a powerful role in existence and domination in terms of land and resources. The archosaur species included animals similar to today's crocodile and general large lizards. Many families of prehistoric animals existed during this time period, such as the phytosaurs, ornithosuchids, prestosuchids, rauisuchids and poposaur archosaurs populated many areas of the earth, and were scattered among areas such as today's India, North America, South America, Africa and Britain. Evidence of fossils of such prehistoric animals have been found in these parts of the world. However, during the Carnian time period, separation of the northern areas began to occur, which separated the Laurasian supercontinent existing at the time. In addition, the Gondwanaland supercontinent of the South also began to separate and disperse itself. However, Pangaea was still intact at this time. During these land mass separations, regions were extremely tectonically active, which caused cataclysmic flows of lava, which would eventually lead to rift lines and land separation. Inevitably, this signified the start to the eventual Late Triassic mass extinction.

Norian Age

The Norian age is the second stage of the three to occur during the duration of the triassic mass extinction. This stage developed about 217 to 204 million years ago. This stage comes after the Carnian stage, and is known for its rising populations of mesozoic organisms as well as the decline in populations of previous species that had once played important roles in the environment. This stage identifies with its own species of ammonoid index fossils, which is how it differs from the preceding Carnian stage. In this stage, fossils and evidence of Cyrtopleurites bicrenatus are found in these different areas of the world, which seem to be more complex and advanced than those in the preceding stage of the era. Many species alive during the Norian age that eventually became extinct lived either in the Tethys-Panthalassan reef province, or the West Pangean reef province. in the Tethys-Panthalassan province, species saw considerable amounts of populations becoming extinct here. Species such as the sphinctozoid as well as other species began dying out, and by the end of the Norian stage, about 90% of these species evolved and remained in the area. Further evidence shows that scientists discovered major rises in sea level towards later years of the stage, in which new taxa came into play.

Rhaetian Age

The Rhaetian age was the final stage of the Triassic era's mass extinction, in succession to the Norian stage, and was last major disruption of life until the end-Cretaceous mass extinction. This stage of the Triassic is known for its extinction of marine reptiles, such as nothosaurs and shashtosaurs with the ichthyosaurs, similar to today's dolphin. This stage was concluded with the disappearance of many species that removed types of plankton from the face of the earth, as well as some organisms known for reef-building, and the pelagic conodonts. In addition to these species that became extinct, the straight-shelled nautoloids, placodonts, bivalves and many types of reptiles did not survive through this stage.

Climate and environment during the Triassic Period

During the beginning of the Triassic Era, the earth consisted of a giant landmass known as Pangea, which covered about a quarter of earth's surface. Towards the end of the era, continental drift occurred which separated Pangea. At this time, polar ice was not present because of the large differences between the equator and the poles. A single, large landmass similar to Pangea would be expected to have extreme seasons; however, evidence offers contradictions. Evidence suggests that there is arid climate as well as proof of strong precipitation. The planet's atmosphere and temperature components were mainly warm and dry, with other seasonal changes in certain ranges.

The Middle Triassic was known to have consistent intervals of high levels of humidity. The circulation and movement of these humidity patterns, geographically, are not known however. The major "Carnian Pluvial Event" stands as one focus point of many studies. Different hypotheses of the events occurrence include eruptions, monsoonal effects, and changes caused by plate tectonics. Continental deposits also support certain ideas relative to the Triassic period. Sediments that include red beds, which are sandstones and shales of color, may suggest seasonal precipitation. Rocks also included dinosaur tracks, mudcracks, and fossils of crustaceans and fish, which provide climate evidence, since animals and plants can only live during periods of which they can survive through.

Evidence of environmental disruption and climate change

The Late Triassic is described as semiarid. Semiarid is characterized by light rainfall, having up to 10–20 inches of precipitation a year. The period had a fluctuating, warm climate in which it was occasionally marked by instances of powerful heat. Different basins in certain areas of Europe provided evidence of the emergence of the “Middle Carnian Pluvial Event." For example, the Western Tethys and German Basin was defined by the theory of a middle Carnian wet climate phase. This event stands as the most distinctive climate change within the Triassic period. Propositions for its cause include:

  • Different behaviors of atmospheric or oceanic circulation forced by plate tectonics may have participated in modifying the carbon cycle and other scientific factors.
  • heavy rains due to shifting of the earth
  • sparked by eruptions, typically originating from an accumulation of igneous rocks, which could have included liquid rock or volcanic rock formations

Theories and concepts are supported universally, due to extensive areal proof of Carnian siliciclastic sediments. The physical positions as well as comparisons of that location to surrounding sediments and layers stood as basis for recording data. Multiple resourced and recurring patterns in results of evaluations allowed for the satisfactory clarification of facts and common conceptions on the Late Triassic. Conclusions summarized that the correlation of these sediments led to the modified version of the new map of Central Eastern Pangea, as well as that the sediment's relation to the “Carnian Pluvial Event” is greater than expected.

  • High interest concerning the Triassic period has fueled the need to uncover more information about the time period's climate. The Late Triassic period is classified as a phase entirely flooded with phases of monsoonal events. A monsoon affects large regions and brings heavy rains along with powerful winds. Field studies confirm the impact and occurrence of strong monsoonal circulation during this time frame. However, hesitations concerning climatic variability remains. Upgrading knowledge on the climate of a period is a difficult task to assess. Understanding of and assumptions of temporal and spatial patterns of the Triassic period's climate variability still need revision. Diverse proxies hindered the flow of palaeontological evidence. Studies in certain zones are missing and could be benefited by collaborating the already existing but uncompared records of Triassic palaeoclimate.
  • A specific physical piece of evidence was found. A fire scar on the trunk of a tree, found in southeast Utah, dates back to the Late Triassic. The feature was evaluated and paved the path to the conclusion of one fire's history. It was categorized through comparison of other modern tree scars. The scar stood as evidence of Late Triassic wildfire, an old climatic event.

Biological impact

The impacts that the Late Triassic era had on surround environments and organisms were wildfire destruction of habitats and prevention of photosynthesis. Climatic cooling also occurred due to the soot in the atmosphere. Studies also show that 103 families of marine invertebrates became extinct at the end of the Triassic, yet another 175 lived on into the jurassic. Marine and extant species were hit fairly hard by extinctions during this period. Almost 20% of 300 extant families became extinct, and Bivalves, Cephalopods, and Brachiopods suffered greatly. 92% of Bivalves were wiped out episodically throughout the Triassic.

The end of the Triassic also brought about the decline of corals and reef builders during what is called a “reef gap”. The changes in sea levels brought this decline upon corals, particularly the Calcisponges and Scleractinian corals. However, some corals would make a resurgence during the Jurassic period. 17 Brachiopod species were also wiped out by the end of the Triassic. Furthermore, Conulariids became entirely extinct.


  1. ^ "International Chronostratigraphic Chart" (PDF). International Commission on Stratigraphy. 2018.

Further reading


Coelophysidae is a family of primitive carnivorous theropod dinosaurs. Most species were relatively small in size. The family flourished in the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic periods, and has been found on numerous continents. Many members of Coelophysidae are characterized by long, slender skulls and light skeletons built for speed. One member, Coelophysis, displays the earliest known furcula in a dinosaur.Under cladistic analysis, Coelophysidae was first defined by Paul Sereno in 1998 as the most recent common ancestor of Coelophysis bauri and Procompsognathus triassicus, and all of that common ancestor's descendants. However, Tykoski (2005) has advocated for the definition to change to include the additional taxa of "Syntarsus" kayentakatae and Segisaurus halli. Coelophysidae is part of the superfamily Coelophysoidea, which in turn is a subset of the larger Neotheropoda clade. As part of Coelophysoidea, Coelophysidae is often placed as sister to the Dilophosauridae family, however, the monophyly of this clade has often been disputed. The older term "Podokesauridae", named 14 years prior to Coelophysidae (which would normally grant it priority), is now usually ignored, since its type specimen was destroyed in a fire and can no longer be compared to new finds.


Dromomeron (meaning "running femur") is a genus of lagerpetonid dinosauromorph archosaur that lived around 220 to 211.9 ± 0.7 million years ago. The genus contains species known from Late Triassic-age rocks of the southwestern United States and northwestern Argentina. It is described as most closely related to the earlier Lagerpeton of Argentina, but was found among remains of true dinosaurs like Chindesaurus, indicating that the first dinosaurs did not immediately replace related groups.Based on the study of the overlapping material of Dromomeron and Tawa hallae, Christopher Bennett proposed that the two taxa were conspecific, forming a single growth series of Dromomeron. However, noting prominent differences between their femurs which cannot be attributed to variation with age, Rodrigo Muller rejected this proposal in 2017. He further noted that, while D. romeri is known from juveniles only, it shares many traits in common with D. gigas, which is known from mature specimens.


Eucoelophysis (meaning "true hollow form") is a genus of dinosauriform from the Late Triassic (Norian) period Chinle Formation of New Mexico. It was assumed to be a coelophysid upon description, but a study by Nesbitt et al. found that it was actually a close relative of Silesaurus, which was independently supported by Ezcurra (2006), who found it to be the sister group to Dinosauria, and Silesaurus as the next most basal taxon.However, the relationships of Silesaurus are uncertain. Dzik found it to be a dinosauriform (the group of archosaurs from which the dinosaurs evolved), but did not rule out the possibility that it represents a primitive ornithischian.


Faxinalipterus is a genus of vertebrate, possibly a pterosaur, from the Late Triassic Caturrita Formation of southern Brazil.


Guaibasauridae is a family of basal saurischian dinosaurs, known from fossil remains of late Triassic period formations in Brazil and Argentina.


Isanosaurus (meaning "Isan [north-eastern Thailand] lizard") was one of the first sauropod dinosaurs. It lived approximately 210 million years ago during the Late Triassic (late Norian to Rhaetian stages) in Thailand. The only species is Isanosaurus attavipachi. Though important for the understanding of sauropod origin and early evolution, Isanosaurus is poorly known. Exact relationships to other early sauropods remain unresolved.


Ixalerpeton (meaning "leaping reptile") is a genus of small, bipedal dinosauromorphs in the lagerpetid family, containing one species, I. polesinensis. It lived in the Late Triassic of Brazil alongside the sauropodomorph dinosaur Buriolestes.


Neotheropoda (meaning "new theropods") is a clade that includes coelophysoids and more advanced theropod dinosaurs, and the only group of theropods who survived the Triassic–Jurassic extinction event. Yet all of the neotheropods became extinct during the early Jurassic period except for Averostra.


Sacisaurus is a silesaurid dinosauriform from the Late Triassic (Norian) Caturrita Formation of southern Brazil. The scientific name, Sacisaurus agudoensis, refers to the city where the species was found, Agudo in the Rio Grande do Sul state, whereas Sacisaurus refers to Saci, a famous one-legged creature from Brazilian mythology, because the fossil skeleton was found with a leg missing.


Saltopus ("hopping foot") is a genus of very small bipedal dinosauriform containing the single species S. elginensis from the late Triassic period of Scotland. It is one of the most famous Elgin Reptiles.

Saturnalia tupiniquim

Saturnalia is an extinct genus of basal sauropodomorph dinosaur known from the Late Triassic Santa Maria Formation of Rio Grande do Sul, southern Brazil and Pebbly Arkose Formation, Zimbabwe.


Silesaurus is a genus of silesaurid dinosauriform from the Late Triassic, approximately 230 million years ago in the Carnian faunal stage of what is now Poland.

Fossilized remains of Silesaurus have been found in the Keuper Claystone in Krasiejów near Opole, Silesia, Poland, which is also the origin of its name. The type species, Silesaurus opolensis, was described by Jerzy Dzik in 2003. It is known from some 20 skeletons, making it one of the best-represented of the early dinosauriformes.


Soumyasaurus is a small silesaurid dinosauriform from the Late Triassic (Norian) Cooper Canyon Formation of western Texas.


Technosaurus (meaning "Tech lizard", for Texas Tech University) is an extinct genus of Late Triassic dinosauriform, from the Late Triassic Bull Canyon Formation (Dockum Group) of Texas, United States.

For about 20 years after its description, it was thought to be a basal ornithischian dinosaur, but better remains of other Triassic archosaurs have cast doubt on this interpretation. As named, it was a chimera of different animals.


Testudinata is the group of all tetrapods with a true turtle shell. It includes both modern turtles (Testudines) and many of their extinct, shelled relatives (stem-turtles). Though it was first coined as the group containing turtles by Klein in 1760, it was first defined in the modern sense by Joyce and colleagues in 2004. Testudinata does not include the primitive stem-turtle Odontochelys, which only had the bottom half of a shell.

A recent phylogenetic tree of Testudinata included Angolachelonia and Testudines as sister-taxa and subgroups of Testudinata .


Therapsida (not to be confused with theropsida, which is its superclade) is a group of synapsids that includes mammals and their ancestors. Many of the traits today seen as unique to mammals had their origin within early therapsids, including having their four limbs extend vertically beneath the body, as opposed to the sprawling posture of reptiles. The earliest fossil attributed to Therapsida is Tetraceratops insignis from the Lower Permian.Therapsids evolved from "pelycosaurs", specifically within the Sphenacodontia, more than 275 million years ago. They replaced the "pelycosaurs" as the dominant large land animals in the Middle Permian and were largely replaced, in turn, by the archosauromorphs in the Triassic, although one group of therapsids, the kannemeyeriiforms, remained diverse in the Late Triassic.

The therapsids included the cynodonts, the group that gave rise to mammals in the Late Triassic around 225 million years ago. Of the non-mammalian therapsids, only cynodonts survived the Triassic–Jurassic extinction event. The last of the non-mammalian therapsids, the tritylodontid cynodonts, became extinct in the Early Cretaceous, approximately 100 million years ago.


Trechnotheria is a group of mammals that includes the therians and some fossil mammals from the Mesozoic Era. In the Jurassic through Cretaceous periods, the group was endemic to what would be Asia and Africa.Trechnotheria has been assigned various ranks, but was originally called a "superlegion" by the original author.

One reference has defined the Trechnotheria as the clade comprising the last common ancestor of Zhangheotherium and living therian mammals, and all its descendants.


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.

The Triassic was named in 1834 by Friedrich von Alberti, after the three distinct rock layers (tri meaning "three") that are found throughout Germany and northwestern Europe—red beds, capped by marine limestone, followed by a series of terrestrial mud- and sandstones—called the "Trias".

Cenozoic era
(present–66.0 Mya)
Mesozoic era
(66.0–251.902 Mya)
Paleozoic era
(251.902–541.0 Mya)
Proterozoic eon
(541.0 Mya–2.5 Gya)
Archean eon (2.5–4 Gya)
Hadean eon (4–4.6 Gya)


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