The Permian is a geologic period and system which spans 47 million years from the end of the Carboniferous Period 298.9 million years ago (Mya), to the beginning of the Triassic period 251.902 Mya. It is the last period of the Paleozoic era; the following Triassic period belongs to the Mesozoic era. The concept of the Permian was introduced in 1841 by geologist Sir Roderick Murchison, who named it after the city of Perm.
The Permian witnessed the diversification of the early amniotes into the ancestral groups of the mammals, turtles, lepidosaurs, and archosaurs. The world at the time was dominated by two continents known as Pangaea and Siberia, surrounded by a global ocean called Panthalassa. The Carboniferous rainforest collapse left behind vast regions of desert within the continental interior. Amniotes, who could better cope with these drier conditions, rose to dominance in place of their amphibian ancestors.
The Permian (along with the Paleozoic) ended with the Permian–Triassic extinction event, the largest mass extinction in Earth's history, in which nearly 96% of marine species and 70% of terrestrial species died out. It would take well into the Triassic for life to recover from this catastrophe. Recovery from the Permian–Triassic extinction event was protracted; on land, ecosystems took 30 million years to recover.
298.9–251.902 million years ago
|Mean atmospheric O
2 content over period duration
|c. 23 vol %|
(115 % of modern level)
|Mean atmospheric CO
2 content over period duration
|c. 900 ppm|
(3 times pre-industrial level)
|Mean surface temperature over period duration||c. 16 °C|
(2 °C above modern level)
|Sea level (above present day)||Relatively constant at 60 m (200 ft) in early Permian; plummeting during the middle Permian to a constant −20 m (−66 ft) in the late Permian.|
The term "Permian" was introduced into geology in 1841 by Sir R. I. Murchison, president of the Geological Society of London, who identified typical strata in extensive Russian explorations undertaken with Édouard de Verneuil. The region now lies in the Perm Krai of Russia.
Official ICS 2017 subdivisions of the Permian System from most recent to most ancient rock layers are:
Sea levels in the Permian remained generally low, and near-shore environments were reduced as almost all major landmasses collected into a single continent – Pangaea. This could have in part caused the widespread extinctions of marine species at the end of the period by severely reducing shallow coastal areas preferred by many marine organisms.
During the Permian, all the Earth's major landmasses were collected into a single supercontinent known as Pangaea. Pangaea straddled the equator and extended toward the poles, with a corresponding effect on ocean currents in the single great ocean ("Panthalassa", the "universal sea"), and the Paleo-Tethys Ocean, a large ocean that existed between Asia and Gondwana. The Cimmeria continent rifted away from Gondwana and drifted north to Laurasia, causing the Paleo-Tethys Ocean to shrink. A new ocean was growing on its southern end, the Tethys Ocean, an ocean that would dominate much of the Mesozoic era. Large continental landmass interiors experience climates with extreme variations of heat and cold ("continental climate") and monsoon conditions with highly seasonal rainfall patterns. Deserts seem to have been widespread on Pangaea. Such dry conditions favored gymnosperms, plants with seeds enclosed in a protective cover, over plants such as ferns that disperse spores in a wetter environment. The first modern trees (conifers, ginkgos and cycads) appeared in the Permian.
Three general areas are especially noted for their extensive Permian deposits – the Ural Mountains (where Perm itself is located), China, and the southwest of North America, including the Texas red beds. The Permian Basin in the U.S. states of Texas and New Mexico is so named because it has one of the thickest deposits of Permian rocks in the world.
The climate in the Permian was quite varied. At the start of the Permian, the Earth was still in an ice age, which began in the Carboniferous. Glaciers receded around the mid-Permian period as the climate gradually warmed, drying the continent's interiors. In the late Permian period, the drying continued although the temperature cycled between warm and cool cycles.
Permian marine deposits are rich in fossil mollusks, echinoderms, and brachiopods. Fossilized shells of two kinds of invertebrates are widely used to identify Permian strata and correlate them between sites: fusulinids, a kind of shelled amoeba-like protist that is one of the foraminiferans, and ammonoids, shelled cephalopods that are distant relatives of the modern nautilus. By the close of the Permian, trilobites and a host of other marine groups became extinct.
Terrestrial life in the Permian included diverse plants, fungi, arthropods, and various types of tetrapods. The period saw a massive desert covering the interior of Pangaea. The warm zone spread in the northern hemisphere, where extensive dry desert appeared. The rocks formed at that time were stained red by iron oxides, the result of intense heating by the sun of a surface devoid of vegetation cover. A number of older types of plants and animals died out or became marginal elements.
The Permian began with the Carboniferous flora still flourishing. About the middle of the Permian a major transition in vegetation began. The swamp-loving lycopod trees of the Carboniferous, such as Lepidodendron and Sigillaria, were progressively replaced in the continental interior by the more advanced seed ferns and early conifers. At the close of the Permian, lycopod and equisete swamps reminiscent of Carboniferous flora survived only on a series of equatorial islands in the Paleo-Tethys Ocean that later would become South China.
The Permian saw the radiation of many important conifer groups, including the ancestors of many present-day families. Rich forests were present in many areas, with a diverse mix of plant groups. The southern continent saw extensive seed fern forests of the Glossopteris flora. Oxygen levels were probably high there. The ginkgos and cycads also appeared during this period.
From the Pennsylvanian subperiod of the Carboniferous period until well into the Permian, the most successful insects were primitive relatives of cockroaches. Six fast legs, four well-developed folding wings, fairly good eyes, long, well-developed antennae (olfactory), an omnivorous digestive system, a receptacle for storing sperm, a chitin-based exoskeleton that could support and protect, as well as a form of gizzard and efficient mouth parts, gave it formidable advantages over other herbivorous animals. About 90% of insects at the start of the Permian were cockroach-like insects ("Blattopterans").
Primitive forms of dragonflies (Odonata) were the dominant aerial predators and probably dominated terrestrial insect predation as well. True Odonata appeared in the Permian, and all are effectively semi-aquatic insects (aquatic immature stages, and terrestrial adults), as are all modern odonates. Their prototypes are the oldest winged fossils, dating back to the Devonian, and are different in several respects from the wings of other insects. Fossils suggest they may have possessed many modern attributes even by the late Carboniferous, and it is possible that they captured small vertebrates, for at least one species had a wing span of 71 cm (28 in). Several other insect groups appeared or flourished during the Permian, including the Coleoptera (beetles) and Hemiptera (true bugs).
Early Permian terrestrial faunas were dominated by pelycosaurs, diadectids and amphibians, the middle Permian by primitive therapsids such as the dinocephalia, and the late Permian by more advanced therapsids such as gorgonopsians and dicynodonts. Towards the very end of the Permian the first archosaurs appeared, a group that would give rise to the crurotarsans and the dinosaurs in the following period. Also appearing at the end of the Permian were the first cynodonts, which would go on to evolve into mammals during the Triassic. Another group of therapsids, the therocephalians (such as Lycosuchus), arose in the Middle Permian. There were no aerial vertebrates (with the exception of gliding reptiles, the avicephalans).
The Permian period saw the development of a fully terrestrial fauna and the appearance of the first large herbivores and carnivores. It was the high tide of the anapsids in the form of the massive Pareiasaurs and host of smaller, generally lizard-like groups. A group of small reptiles, the diapsids, started to abound. These were the ancestors to most modern reptiles and the ruling dinosaurs as well as pterosaurs and crocodiles.
The synapsid, early ancestors to mammals, also thrived at this time. Synapsids included some large members such as Dimetrodon. The special adaptations of reptiles enabled them to flourish in the drier climate of the Permian and they grew to dominate the vertebrates.
The Permian ended with the most extensive extinction event recorded in paleontology: the Permian–Triassic extinction event. 90% to 95% of marine species became extinct, as well as 70% of all land organisms. It is also the only known mass extinction of insects. Recovery from the Permian-Triassic extinction event was protracted; on land, ecosystems took 30 million years to recover. Trilobites, which had thrived since Cambrian times, finally became extinct before the end of the Permian. Nautiluses, a species of cephalopods, surprisingly survived this occurrence.
There is evidence that magma, in the form of flood basalt, poured onto the surface in what is now called the Siberian Traps, for thousands of years, contributing to the environmental stress that led to mass extinction. The reduced coastal habitat and highly increased aridity probably also contributed. Based on the amount of lava estimated to have been produced during this period, the worst-case scenario is the release of enough carbon dioxide from the eruptions to raise world temperatures five degrees Celsius.
Another hypothesis involves ocean venting of hydrogen sulfide gas. Portions of the deep ocean will periodically lose all of its dissolved oxygen allowing bacteria that live without oxygen to flourish and produce hydrogen sulfide gas. If enough hydrogen sulfide accumulates in an anoxic zone, the gas can rise into the atmosphere. Oxidizing gases in the atmosphere would destroy the toxic gas, but the hydrogen sulfide would soon consume all of the atmospheric gas available. Hydrogen sulfide levels might have increased dramatically over a few hundred years. Models of such an event indicate that the gas would destroy ozone in the upper atmosphere allowing ultraviolet radiation to kill off species that had survived the toxic gas. There are species that can metabolize hydrogen sulfide.
Another hypothesis builds on the flood basalt eruption theory. An increase in temperature of five degrees Celsius would not be enough to explain the death of 95% of life. But such warming could slowly raise ocean temperatures until frozen methane reservoirs below the ocean floor near coastlines melted, expelling enough methane (among the most potent greenhouse gases) into the atmosphere to raise world temperatures an additional five degrees Celsius. The frozen methane hypothesis helps explain the increase in carbon-12 levels found midway in the Permian–Triassic boundary layer. It also helps explain why the first phase of the layer's extinctions was land-based, the second was marine-based (and starting right after the increase in C-12 levels), and the third land-based again.
It has been hypothesised that huge meteorite impact crater (Wilkes Land crater) with a diameter of around 500 kilometers in Antarctica represents an impact event that may be related to the extinction. The crater is located at a depth of 1.6 kilometers beneath the ice of Wilkes Land in eastern Antarctica. The scientists speculate that this impact may have caused the Permian–Triassic extinction event, although its age is bracketed only between 100 million and 500 million years ago. They also speculate that it may have contributed in some way to the separation of Australia from the Antarctic landmass, which were both part of a supercontinent called Gondwana. Levels of iridium and quartz fracturing in the Permian-Triassic layer do not approach those of the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary layer. Given that a far greater proportion of species and individual organisms became extinct during the former, doubt is cast on the significance of a meteorite impact in creating the latter. Further doubt has been cast on this theory based on fossils in Greenland that show the extinction to have been gradual, lasting about eighty thousand years, with three distinct phases.
Many scientists argue that the Permian–Triassic extinction event was caused by a combination of some or all of the hypotheses above and other factors; the formation of Pangaea decreased the number of coastal habitats and may have contributed to the extinction of many clades.
The Auchenorrhyncha (former synonym: Cicadinea) suborder of the Hemiptera contains most of the familiar members of what was called the Homoptera – groups such as cicadas, leafhoppers, treehoppers, planthoppers, and spittlebugs. The aphids and scale insects are the other well-known "Homoptera", and they are in the suborder Sternorrhyncha. Lesser-known insects largely regarded as Homoptera are the Coleorrhyncha. However, the taxonomic status of the Hemiptera and Homoptera is currently under investigation and discussion. See Heteroptera and Prosorrhyncha for more information.
Distributed worldwide, all members of this group are plant-feeders, and many are vectors of viral and fungal diseases of plants.
It is also common for Auchenorrhyncha species to produce either audible sounds or substrate vibrations as a form of communication. Such calls range from vibrations inaudible to humans, to the calls of many species of cicadas that can be heard for hundreds of metres, at least. In season, they produce the most characteristic and ubiquitous noise of the bush.Cynodont
The cynodonts ("dog teeth") (clade Cynodontia) are therapsids that first appeared in the Late Permian (approximately 260 Ma). The group includes modern mammals (including humans) as well as their extinct ancestors and close relatives. Nonmammalian cynodonts spread throughout southern Pangea and are represented by fossils from South America, Africa, India, and Antarctica. In the northern continents, fossils have been found in eastern North America as well as in Belgium and northwestern France. Cynodontia is one of the most diverse groups of therapsids.Ensifera
Ensifera is a suborder of insects that includes the various types of crickets and their allies including: true crickets, camel crickets, bush crickets or katydids, grigs, wetas and Cooloola monsters. It and the suborder Caelifera (grasshoppers and their allies) make up the order Orthoptera. Ensifera is believed to be a more ancient group than Caelifera, with its origins in the Carboniferous period, the split having occurred at the end of the Permian period. Unlike the Caelifera, the Ensifera contain numerous members that are partially carnivorous, feeding on other insects as well as plants.
"Ensifer" means "sword bearer" in Latin, and refers to the typically elongated and blade-like ovipositor of the females.Friday Night Lights (film)
Friday Night Lights is a 2004 American sports drama film, directed by Peter Berg. The film follows the coach and players of a high school football team in the Texas city of Odessa, which supported and was obsessed with them. The book on which it was based, Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream (1990) by H. G. Bissinger, followed the story of the 1988 Permian High School Panthers football team as they made a run towards the state championship. A television series of the same name premiered on October 3, 2006 on NBC. The film won the Best Sports Movie ESPY Award and was ranked number 37 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the Best High School Movies.Ginkgo
Ginkgo is a genus of highly unusual non-flowering plants. The scientific name is also used as the English name. The order to which it belongs, Ginkgoales, first appeared in the Permian, 270 million years ago, possibly derived from "seed ferns" of the order Peltaspermales, and now only contains this single genus and species. The rate of evolution within the genus has been slow, and almost all its species had become extinct by the end of the Pliocene; the exception is the sole living species, Ginkgo biloba, which is only found in the wild in China, but is cultivated across the world. The relationships between ginkgos and other groups of plants are not fully resolved.Lopingian
The Lopingian is the uppermost series/epoch of the Permian. It is the last epoch of the Paleozoic. The Lopingian was preceded by the Guadalupian and followed by the Early Triassic.
The name was introduced by Amadeus William Grabau in 1931 and derives from Leping, Jiangxi in the then Republic of China. It consists of two stages/ages. The earlier is the Wuchiapingian and the later is the Changhsingian.The International Chronostratigraphic Chart (v2018/07) provides a numerical age of 259.1 ±0.5 Ma. If a Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP) has been approved, the lower boundary of the earliest stage determines numerical age of an epoch. The GSSP for the Wuchiapingian has a numerical age of 259.8 ± 0.4 Ma.The Lopingian ended with the Permian–Triassic extinction event.Neodiapsida
Neodiapsida is a clade, or major branch, of the reptilian family tree and includes all diapsids apart from some early primitive types known as the araeoscelidians.
In phylogenetic systematics, they are variously defined as the common ancestor and all its descendants of Younginiforms and "crown diapsids" (the common ancestor of lizards, crocodilians and birds, and all their descendants) [Callaway 1997], or all diapsids that are more closely related to Sauria than to Araeoscelidia (Laurin and Gauthier 2000).
Early or basal Permian neodiaspids were lizard-like, but already include specialised forms for swimming (Claudiosaurus) and gliding (Coelurosauravidae), as well as more conventional lizard-like forms (Youngina etc.). Before the end of the Permian, the neodiapsids give rise to the main branches of the diapsid evolutionary tree, the lepidosaurs and archosaurs.Neopterygii
Neopterygii are a group of fish. Neopterygii means "new fins" (from Greek νέος neos, new, and πτέρυξ pteryx, fin). Only a few changes occurred during their evolution from the earlier actinopterygians. They appeared sometime in the Late Permian, before the time of the dinosaurs. The Neopterygii were a very successful group of fish, because they could move more rapidly than their ancestors. Their scales and skeletons began to lighten during their evolution, and their jaws became more powerful and efficient. While electroreception and the ampullae of Lorenzini are present in all other groups of fish, with the exception of hagfish (although hagfish are not Actinopterygii, they are Agnathans), Neopterygii have lost this sense, even if it has later been re-evolved within Gymnotiformes and catfishes, which possess nonhomologous teleost ampullae.Neotherapsida
Neotherapsida is a clade of therapsids. It includes anomodonts and the more derived theriodonts, which include mammals.Paleozoic
The Paleozoic (or Palaeozoic) Era ( ; from the Greek palaios (παλαιός), "old" and zoe (ζωή), "life", meaning "ancient life") is the earliest of three geologic eras of the Phanerozoic Eon. It is the longest of the Phanerozoic eras, lasting from 541 to 251.902 million years ago, and is subdivided into six geologic periods (from oldest to youngest): the Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous, and Permian. The Paleozoic comes after the Neoproterozoic Era of the Proterozoic Eon and is followed by the Mesozoic Era.
The Paleozoic was a time of dramatic geological, climatic, and evolutionary change. The Cambrian witnessed the most rapid and widespread diversification of life in Earth's history, known as the Cambrian explosion, in which most modern phyla first appeared. Arthropods, molluscs, fish, amphibians, synapsids and diapsids all evolved during the Paleozoic. Life began in the ocean but eventually transitioned onto land, and by the late Paleozoic, it was dominated by various forms of organisms. Great forests of primitive plants covered the continents, many of which formed the coal beds of Europe and eastern North America. Towards the end of the era, large, sophisticated diapsids and synapsids were dominant and the first modern plants (conifers) appeared.
The Paleozoic Era ended with the largest extinction event in the history of Earth, the Permian–Triassic extinction event. The effects of this catastrophe were so devastating that it took life on land 30 million years into the Mesozoic Era to recover. Recovery of life in the sea may have been much faster.Pangaea
Pangaea or Pangea ( ) was a supercontinent that existed during the late Paleozoic and early Mesozoic eras. It assembled from earlier continental units approximately 335 million years ago, and it began to break apart about 175 million years ago. In contrast to the present Earth and its distribution of continental mass, much of Pangaea was in the southern hemisphere and surrounded by a superocean, Panthalassa. Pangaea was the most recent supercontinent to have existed and the first to be reconstructed by geologists.Permian Basin (North America)
The Permian Basin is a part of the western portion of the United States Mid-Continent Oil Field. This sedimentary basin is located in western Texas and southeastern New Mexico. It reaches from just south of Lubbock, past Midland and Odessa, south nearly to the Rio Grande River in southern West Central Texas, and extending westward into the southeastern part of New Mexico. It is so named because it has one of the world's thickest deposits of rocks from the Permian geologic period. The greater Permian Basin comprises several component basins; of these, Midland Basin is the largest, Delaware Basin is the second largest, and Marfa Basin is the smallest. The Permian Basin extends beneath an area approximately 250 miles (400 km) wide and 300 miles (480 km) long.The Permian Basin gives its name to a large oil and natural gas producing area, part of the Mid-Continent Oil Producing Area. Total production for that region up to the beginning of 1993 was over 14.9 billion barrels (2.37×109 m3). The cities of Midland, Texas, Odessa, Texas and San Angelo serve as the headquarters for oil production activities in the basin.
The Permian Basin is also a major source of potassium salts (potash), which are mined from bedded deposits of sylvite and langbeinite in the Salado Formation of Permian age. Sylvite was discovered in drill cores in 1925, and production began in 1931. The mines are located in Lea and Eddy counties, New Mexico, and are operated by the room and pillar method. Halite (rock salt) is produced as a byproduct of potash mining.Permian High School
Permian High School is a public high school located in Odessa, Texas and is one of three high schools in the Ector County Independent School District. It was the subject of the book Friday Night Lights which in turn inspired a movie and TV series of the same name.Permian–Triassic extinction event
The Permian–Triassic (P–Tr or P–T) extinction event, colloquially known as the Great Dying, the End-Permian Extinction or the Great Permian Extinction, occurred about 252 Ma (million years) ago, forming the boundary between the Permian and Triassic geologic periods, as well as between the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras. It is the Earth's most severe known extinction event, with up to 96% of all marine species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species becoming extinct. It is the only known mass extinction of insects. Some 57% of all biological families and 83% of all genera became extinct. Because so much biodiversity was lost, the recovery of land-dwelling life took significantly longer than after any other extinction event, possibly up to 10 million years. Studies in Bear Lake County near Paris, Idaho showed a relatively quick rebound in a localized marine ecosystem, taking around 2 million years to recover, suggesting that the impact of the extinction may have been felt less severely in some areas than others.
There is evidence for one to three distinct pulses, or phases, of extinction. Suggested mechanisms for the latter include one or more large meteor impact events, massive volcanism such as that of the Siberian Traps, and the ensuing coal or gas fires and explosions, and a runaway greenhouse effect triggered by sudden release of methane from the sea floor due to methane clathrate dissociation according to the clathrate gun hypothesis or methane-producing microbes known as methanogens. Possible contributing gradual changes include sea-level change, increasing anoxia, increasing aridity, and a shift in ocean circulation driven by climate change.Sauria
The clade Sauria was traditionally a suborder for lizards which originally (before 1800) comprised crocodilians too. It has been redefined as the group containing the most recent common ancestor of archosaurs and lepidosaurs and all its descendants; as such it was commonly thought that Sauria is a crowned-base grouping of diapsids. However, recent genomic studies and comprehensive studies in the fossil record suggest that turtles are closely related to archosaurs, not to parareptiles as previously thought. Sauria can be seen as a crowned-group of all modern reptiles (including birds) within the larger total group Sauropsida, which also contains various stem-reptile groups.Synapsid
Synapsids (Greek, 'fused arch'), synonymous with theropsids (Greek, 'beast-face'), are a group of animals that includes mammals and every animal more closely related to mammals than to other living amniotes. They are easily separated from other amniotes by having a temporal fenestra, an opening low in the skull roof behind each eye, leaving a bony arch beneath each; this accounts for their name. Primitive synapsids are usually called pelycosaurs or pelycosaur-grade synapsids; more advanced mammal-like ones, therapsids. The non-mammalian members are described as mammal-like reptiles in classical systematics; they can also be called stem mammals or proto-mammals. Synapsids evolved from basal amniotes and are one of the two major groups of the later amniotes; the other is the sauropsids, a group that includes modern reptiles and birds. The distinctive temporal fenestra developed in the ancestral synapsid about 312 million years ago, during the Late Carboniferous period.
Synapsids were the largest terrestrial vertebrates in the Permian period, 299 to 251 million years ago, although some of the larger pareiasaurs at the end of Permian could match them in size. As with other groups then extant, their numbers and variety were severely reduced by the Permian–Triassic extinction. By the time of the extinction at the end of Permian, all the older forms of synapsids (known as pelycosaurs) were already gone, having been replaced by the more advanced therapsids. Though the dicynodonts and Eutheriodontia, the latter consisting of Eutherocephalia (Therocephalia) and Epicynodontia (Cynodontia), continued into the Triassic period as the only known surviving therapsids, archosaurs became the largest and most numerous land vertebrates in the course of this period. The recently discovered Lisowicia bojani was the size of an elephant. The cynodont group Probainognathia, which includes Mammaliaformes, were the only synapsids who outlasted the Triassic. After the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, the synapsids (in the form of mammals) again became the largest land animals as well as becoming the largest marine animals.Therapsid
Therapsida 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.Triassic
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 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".