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Triassic Period


This page describes the Triassic Period, including stratigraphy, paleogeography, and famous lagerstätten, followed by a sketched outline of some of the major evolutionary events.

Keywords: Triassic Period, Triassic biota, fossil record, evolution, extinction


During the early part of the Triassic Period, much of the world was arid, becoming cooler and wetter towards the end. Popular interest in the Mesozoic is largely focused upon the Jurassic and Cretaceous and essentially preoccupied with crown group dinosaurs. The interesting evolution, however, mostly occurred deep in the Triassic. By the end of this period, dinosaurs, pterosaurs, lizards, mammals, and possibly even the earliest birds, had all evolved from Permian stock.


Related Topics

Further Reading

  • Ogg et al. 2008: The Concise Geologic Time Scale. Cambridge.


      Type Section

      Lower (Permian–Triassic) Boundary

      The mass extinction event which marks the Permian-Triassic boundary is discussed elsewhere. Stratigraphically, the boundary is defined at the first occurrence of the conodont Hindeodus (al. Isarcicella) parvus within the evolutionary lineage Hindeodus typicaliseH. Latidentatus praeparvuseH. parvuseH. postparvus as the primary correlation marker for the base of the Mesozoic and Triassic (Gradstein et al. 2012, p. 683).

      Upper (Triassic–Jurassic) Boundary

      “The end-Triassic mass extinction terminated many groups of marine life, including the conodonts, whose distinctive phosphatic jaw elements constitute a primary zonation for much of the Paleozoic and Triassic, and the majority of ammonoids. Indeed, in the few regions with continuous deposition there is an interval devoid of either typical latest-Triassic taxa (e.g., conodonts or Choristoceras ammonoids) or earliest-Jurassic forms (e.g., Psiloceras ammonites). A sea-level fall produced extended gaps in many shallow-marine sections; therefore, the boundary between upper Triassic and the overlying lower Jurassic was commonly a sequence boundary and hiatus” (Gradstein et al. 2012, p. 733, and references therein).

      The GSSP for the base of the Jurassic is set at 5.80 m above the base of the Tiefengraben Member of the Kendelbach Formation, corresponding to the local lowest occurrence of the ammonite Psiloceras spelae subsp. tirolicum, in the Kuhjoch section, Northern Calcareous Alps, Austria. Other useful markers include the FAD of Cerebropollenites thiergartii (a pollen grain), Praegubkinella turgescens (a foraminifer), and Cytherelloidea buisensis (an ostracod) (see Gradstein et al. 2012).


      The Triassic Period spans the interval from 252.17 ±0.06 to 201.3 ±0.2 Ma (Cohen et al. 2015).


      Major Tectonic Events

      Land and Sea



      General Characteristics

      Major Taxa

      The earliest unambiguous dinoflagellate fossils are Triassic in age. Like most microscopic fossils, the dinoflagellates have a rather low profile with the general public, but they are important for Mesozoic and Cenozoic biostratigraphy.

      Triassic vertebrates were dominated by two different amniote clades: the Synapsida and the Archosauromorpha. The Synapsida, which includes mammals and their close relatives, were the most abundant and diverse of terrestrial vertebrates. Non-mammalian synapsids were extremely abundant during the Early and Middle Triassic, although the true mammals are not known until the Late Triassic.

      The Archosauromorpha, which comprises crocodilians, dinosaurs, pterosaurs and others, first appeared in the Late Permian and became important components of the Early and Middle Triassic faunas. A group of archosauromorphs known as archosaurs became dominant in the Middle Triassic and gave rise to the dinosaurs in the Late Triassic. (After Parrish 1997.)

      Major Evolutionary Events

      Perhaps the most significant evolutionary event of the middle Cretaceous was the great proliferation of angiosperms – the flowering plants. However, the angiosperms most probably arose from the Gnetales or possibly the Bennettitales (Willis & McElwain 2002, p. 184) earlier: perhaps as early as the Triassic or even the late Carboniferous (Qui et al. 1999).

      By the end of the Triassic Period, dinosaurs, pterosaurs, lizards, mammals, and possibly even the earliest birds, had all evolved from Permian stock.



      New Zealand Occurrences


      Cohen, K.M.; Finney, S.C.; Gibbard, P.L.; Fan, J.X. 2015: The ICS international chronostratigraphic chart v 2015/01. Episodes 36: 199-204.

      Gradstein, F.M.; Ogg, J.G.; Schmitz, M.D.; Ogg, G.M. 2012: The Geologic Time Scale 2012. Elsevier 1-2.

      Ogg, J.G.; Ogg, G.; Gradstein, F.M. 2008: The Concise Geologic Time Scale. Cambridge: 1-177.

      Parrish, J.M. 1997: Triassic Period. In Currie, P.J.; Padian, K. (eds.) 1997: Encyclopedia of dinosaurs. Academic Press: 1-869. : 747-748.

      Qui, Y.-L.; Lee, J.; Bernasconi-Quadroni, F.; Soltis, D.E.; Soltis, P.; Zanis, M.; Zimmer, E.A.; Chen, Z.; Savolainen, V.; Chase, M.W. 1999: The Earliest Angiosperms. Nature 402: 404-407.

      Willis, K.J.; McElwain, J.C. 2002: The evolution of plants. Oxford: 1-378.

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