How catastrophic was the end-Triassic mass extinction?

Anthony Hallam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

122 Citations (Scopus)


A review of marine and terrestrial annual and plant fossils fails to reveal convincing evidence of a global catastrophe at the Triassic-Jurassic boundary, although this time marked the final disappearance of ceratite ammonites and conodonts, together with the extinction of most calcareous demosponges; important groups of bivalves and brachiopods went extinct. Because of facies problems, however, there is no stratigraphic section that reveals a clear-cut disappearance over a short distance. Other marine animal groups except perhaps the radiolarians fail to reveal a notable extinction of global extent immediately across the boundary. On the other hand, there was a substantially higher extinction rate among marine animals in the Rhaetian as compared with the previous stage. On the land, the record is equivocal. Dramatic changes across the T-J boundary have been claimed for plants in particular areas, such as eastern North America and East Greenland, but only gradual change has been recognized elsewhere. Similarly, claims of a T-J boundary vertebrate mass extinction have not been supported by others. For the Rhaetian as a whole, however, the turnover rate of reptiles was high. Although much remains to be learned, it seems evident that the fossil record of the latest Triassic is more consistent with a gradual scenario extended over time than a 'geologically instantaneous' impact catastrophe.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-157
Number of pages11
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2002


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