The Missing Mass Extinction at the Triassic-Jurassic Boundary

  • Spencer G. Lucas
  • Lawrence H. Tanner
Part of the Topics in Geobiology book series (TGBI, volume 46)


The Late Triassic was a prolonged episode characterized by high rates of biotic turnover and discrete extinction events due to elevated extinction rates for some biotic groups and low origination rates for many. An end-Triassic mass extinction continues to be cited as one of the “big five” mass extinctions of the Phanerozoic. However, a detailed examination of the fossil record, especially by best-sections analysis, indicates that many of the groups usually claimed to have suffered catastrophic extinction at the end of the Triassic, such as ammonoids, marine bivalves, conodonts and tetrapod vertebrates, experienced multiple extinctions throughout the Late Triassic, not a single mass extinction at the end of the Period. Many other groups were relatively unaffected, whereas some other groups, such as reef communities, were subject to only regional effects. Indeed, the lack of evidence of a collapse of trophic networks in the sea and on land makes the case for an end-Triassic mass extinction untenable. Still, marked evolutionary turnover of radiolarians and ammonoids did occur across the Triassic-Jurassic boundary. The end of the Triassic encompassed temporary disruptions of the marine and terrestrial ecosystems, driven by the environmental effects of the eruption of the flood basalts of the Circum-Atlantic Magmatic Province (CAMP), through outgassing in particular, but these disruptions did not produce a global mass extinction.


Triassic-Jurassic boundary (TJB) Mass extinction Radiolarians Bivalves Ammonoids Conodonts Land plants Tetrapods CAMP volcanism 



We are grateful to numerous colleagues whose ideas and work have influenced this article. In particular, we thank Jean Guex, Tony Hallam, Steve Hesselbo, the late Heinz Kozur, Wolfram Kuerschner, Leo Krystyn, Chris McRoberts, Paul Olsen, Josef Pálfy, Geoff Warrington and Rob Weems, not all of whom agree with our conclusions, but all of whom have contributed substantially to our understanding of events across the TJB. Artwork by Matt Celeskey appears in several figures. Adrian Hunt and Karl Krainer provided helpful reviews of the manuscript.


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.New Mexico Museum of Natural History and ScienceAlbuquerqueUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological and Environmental SciencesLe Moyne CollegeSyracuseUSA

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