Field of Science

Reanalysis of the Archosauriform Proterochampsa from the Late Triassic of Argentina

Dilkes, D., and A. Arcucci. 2012. Proterochampsa barrionuevoi (Archosauriformes: Proterochampsia) from The Late Triassic (Carnian) of Argentina and a phylogenetic analysis of Proterochampsia. Palaeontology early online. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-4983.2012.01170.x

Abstract - Restudy of skulls and available postcrania of the proterochampsian archosauriform Proterochampsa barrionuevoi from the Ischigualasto Formation (Upper Triassic, Carnian) in the San Juan Province, Argentina, confirms that the genus is diagnosed by autapomorphies that include dermal sculpturing consisting of prominent ridges and nodular protuberances, a large hook-like lateral projection on the quadratojugal, an antorbital fossa restricted to a depression along the maxilla, lateral expansion of the premaxilla anterior to the premaxilla–maxilla contact, absence of a supratemporal fossa, exclusion of jugal from suborbital fenestra, basal tubera of parabasisphenoid facing ventrally and reaching laterally beyond the basipterygoid process, and a ventral lamina on the angular. Proterochampsa nodosa is a valid species distinguished from P. barrionuevoi by fewer cranial ridges with larger protuberances, relatively smaller supratemporal fenestrae and width of frontals between orbits less than that of the nasals. A phylogenetic analysis supports the monophyly of Proterochampsia consisting of Proterochampsa, Chanaresuchus bonapartei, Gualosuchus reigi, Tropidosuchus romeri and Cerritosaurus binsfeldi. A temporal separation between the two basal proterochampsians with earliest records in the Late Triassic (Proterochampsa and Cerritosaurus) and Chanaresuchus, Gualosuchus and Tropidosuchus in the Middle Triassic indicates hidden proterochampsian diversity in the Middle Triassic.

Associated Evolution Of Bipedality And Cursoriality Among Triassic Archosaurs

Kubo, T., and M. O. Kubo. 2012. Associated evolution of bipedality and cursoriality among Triassic archosaurs: a phylogenetically controlled evaluation. Paleobiology 38: 474–485.
Abstract - Bipedalism evolved more than twice among archosaurs, and it is a characteristic of basal dinosaurs and a prerequisite for avian flight. Nevertheless, the reasons for the evolution of bipedalism among archosaurs have barely been investigated. Comparative analysis using phylogenetically independent contrasts showed a significant correlation between bipedality (relative length of forelimb) and cursoriality (relative length of metatarsal III) among Triassic archosaurs. This result indicates that, among Triassic archosaurs, bipeds could run faster than quadrupeds. Bipedalism is probably an adaptation for cursoriality among archosaurs, which may explain why bipedalism evolved convergently in the crocodilian and bird lineages. This result also indicates that the means of acquiring cursoriality may differ between archosaurs and mammals.

As "Leisurely" Divers, Triassic Ichthyosaurs Did Not Suffer From "The Bends"

Rothschild, B. M., Xiaoting, Z., and L. D. Martin. 2012. Adaptations for marine habitat and the effect of Triassic and Jurassic predator pressure on development of decompression syndrome in ichthyosaurs. Naturwissenschaften 99:443–448 DOI 10.1007/s00114-012-0918-0
Abstract - Decompression syndrome (caisson disease or the the bends) resulting in avascular necrosis has been documented in mosasaurs, sauropterygians, ichthyosaurs, and turtles from the Middle Jurassic to Late Cretaceous, but it was unclear that this disease occurred as far back as the Triassic. We have examined a large Triassic sample of ichthyosaurs and compared it with an equally large post- Triassic sample. Avascular necrosis was observed in over 15%of LateMiddle Jurassic to Cretaceous ichthyosaurs with the highest occurrence (18 %) in the Early Cretaceous, but was rare or absent in geologically older specimens. Triassic reptiles that dive were either physiologically protected, or rapid changes of their position in the water column rare and insignificant enough to prevent being recorded in the skeleton. Emergency surfacing due to a threat from an underwater predator may be the most important cause of avascular necrosis for air-breathing divers, with relative frequency of such events documented in the skeleton. Diving in the Triassic appears to have been a leisurelybehavior until the evolution of large predators in the Late Jurassic that forced sudden depth alterations contributed to a higher occurrence of bends.

New U-Pb Dates for the Middle Triassic of Monte San Giorgio

Stockar, R., Baumgartner, P. O., and D. Condon. 2012. Integrated Ladinian bio-chronostratigraphy and geochrononology of Monte San Giorgio (Southern Alps, Switzerland). Swiss Journal of Geosciences 105:85-108.
Abstract - New biostratigraphic data significantly improve the age assignment of the Ladinian succession of Monte San Giorgio (UNESCO World Heritage List site, Southern Alps, Switzerland), whose world-famous fossil marine vertebrate faunas are now dated to the substage and zone levels. High-resolution single-zircon U–Pb dating was performed using ID-TIMS and chemical abrasion (CA) pre-treatment technique on volcanic ash layers intercalated in the biostratigraphically-defined intervals of the Meride Limestone. It yielded ages of 241.07 ± 0.13 Ma (Cava superiore beds, P. gredleri Zone), 240.63 ± 0.13 Ma (Cassina beds, P gredleri/P. archelaus transition Zone) and 239.51 ± 0.15 Ma (Lower Kalkschieferzone, P. archelaus Zone). Our results suggest that the time interval including the vertebrate-bearing Middle Triassic section spans around 4 Myr and is thus significantly shorter than so far assumed. The San Giorgio Dolomite and the Meride Limestone correlate with intervals of the Buchenstein Formation and the Wengen Formation in the reference section at Bagolino, where the Global boundary Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP) for the base of the Ladinian was defined. The new radio-isotopic ages of the Meride Limestone are up to 2 Myr older than those published for the biostratigraphically-equivalent intervals at Bagolino but they are consistent with the recent re-dating of the underlying Besano Formation, also performed using the CA technique. Average sedimentation rates at Monte San Giorgio are by more than an order of magnitude higher compared to those assumed for the Buchenstein Formation, which formed under sediment starved pelagic conditions, and reflect prevailing high subsidence and high carbonate mud supply from the adjoining Salvatore/Esino platforms.  Finally, the high-resolution U–Pb ages allow a correlation of the vertebrate faunas of the Cava superiore/Cava inferior beds with the marine vertebrate record of the Prosanto Formation (Upper Austroalpine), so far precluded by the poor biostratigraphic control of the latter.

First Procolophonid from the Lower Triassic of Madagascar

Falconnet, J., Andriamihaja, M., Läng, É.,  and J.-S. Steyer. 2012. First procolophonid (Reptilia, Parareptilia) from the Lower Triassic of Madagascar. Comptes Rendus Palevol (advance online publication)
Abstract - Lasasaurus beltanae nov. gen. nov. sp., a new procolophonid (Reptilia, Parareptilia) from the Lower Triassic of Madagascar, is represented by a single partial skeleton preserved in a ferro-calcareous nodule from the Middle Sakamena Formation, in the North of the island. This new taxon is unique in possessing peculiar, fine and dendritic crests running along the posterolateral side of the squamosal, widely spaced maxillary teeth, subparallel mesiodistal ridges connecting maxillary teeth to the tooth row, and a strongly acute anterior margin of the copula (hyoid bone). This well-preserved specimen belongs to a juvenile individual. The inclusion of L. beltanae nov. gen. nov. sp. in a phylogenetic analysis suggests that it is close to Theledectinae, Procolophoninae, and Leptopleurinae, though their respective relationships are uncertain. This specimen is the first procolophonid described from Madagascar and represents a minor terrestrial component of a coastal vertebrate assemblage dominated by amphibious to fully-aquatic taxa.

Two New Triassic Archosaurian Taxa in the New Issue of Acta Palaeontologica Polonica

These two papers have been available for awhile as accepted manuscripts, but now they are officially out and freely downloadable.

Niedźwiedzki, G., Sulej, T., and J. Dzik. 2012. A large predatory archosaur from the Late Triassic of Poland. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 57 (2): 267-276. doi:

Abstract - We describe a new large predatory archosaur, Smok wawelski gen. et sp. nov., from the latest Triassic (latest Norian–early Rhaetian; approximately 205–200 Ma) of Lisowice (Lipie Śląskie clay−pit) in southern Poland. The length of the reconstructed skeleton is 5–6 m and that of the skull 50–60 cm, making S. wawelski larger than any other known predatory archosaur from the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic of central Europe (including theropod dinosaurs and “rauisuchian” crurotarsans). The holotype braincase is associated with skull, pelvic and isolated limb−bones found in close proximity (within 30 m), and we regard them as belonging to the same individual. Large, apparently tridactyl tracks that occur in the same rock unit may have been left by animals of the same species. The highly autapomorphic braincase shows large attachment areas for hypertrophied protractor pterygoideus muscles on the lateral surface and a wide, funnel−like region between the basal tubera and basipterygoid processes on the ventral surface. The skeleton (cranial and postcranial) possesses some features similar to those in theropod dinosaurs and others to those in large crocodile−line archosaurs (“rauisuchians”), rendering phylogenetic placement of S. wawelski difficult at this time.


Kammerer, C. F., Nesbitt, S. J., and N. H. Shubin. 2012. The first silesaurid dinosauriform from the Late Triassic of Morocco. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 57 (2): 277-284 doi:

Abstract - Disarticulated material from the Late Triassic Timezgadiouine Formation in the Argana Basin of Morocco represents a new taxon of silesaurid dinosauromorph, Diodorus scytobrachion gen. et sp. nov. D. scytobrachion can be distinguished from other silesaurids by the presence of anteriorly−canted teeth that decrease in size towards the anterior end of the dentary and a distinct lateral ridge running parallel to the dentary alveolar margin. In a phylogenetic analysis, D. scytobrachion is recovered as the sister−taxon to the Brazilian Sacisaurus agudoensis, nested deep within Silesauridae. This new taxon provides further evidence of a near−cosmopolitan range for basal dinosauriforms in the Late Triassic and further demonstrates the disparity of dental morphologies within Silesauridae.

New Triassic Papers

Thanks to Ben Creisler for originally compiling these...

Chen, Z. Q-., and M. J. Benton. 2012. The timing and pattern of biotic recovery following the end-Permian mass extinction. Nature Geoscience 5: 375–383doi:10.1038/ngeo1475
Abstract - The aftermath of the great end-Permian period mass extinction 252 Myr ago shows how life can recover from the loss of >90% species globally. The crisis was triggered by a number of physical environmental shocks (global warming, acid rain, ocean acidification and ocean anoxia), and some of these were repeated over the next 5–6 Myr. Ammonoids and some other groups diversified rapidly, within 1–3 Myr, but extinctions continued through the Early Triassic period. Triassic ecosystems were rebuilt stepwise from low to high trophic levels through the Early to Middle Triassic, and a stable, complex ecosystem did not re-emerge until the beginning of the Middle Triassic, 8–9 Myr after the crisis. A positive aspect of the recovery was the emergence of entirely new groups, such as marine reptiles and decapod crustaceans, as well as new tetrapods on land, including — eventually — dinosaurs. The stepwise recovery of life in the Triassic could have been delayed either by biotic drivers (complex multispecies interactions) or physical perturbations, or a combination of both. This is an example of the wider debate about the relative roles of intrinsic and extrinsic drivers of large-scale evolution.


Lindström, S., van de Schootbrugge, B., Dybkjær, K., Pedersen, G. K.,  Fiebig, J., Nielsen, L. H.,  and S. Richoz. 2012.  No causal link between terrestrial ecosystem change and methane release during the end-Triassic mass extinction.
Geology 40(6): 531-534
doi: 10.1130/G32928.1

Abstract - Profound changes in both marine and terrestrial biota during the end-Triassic mass extinction event and associated successive carbon cycle perturbations across the Triassic-Jurassic boundary (T-J, 201.3 Ma) have primarily been attributed to volcanic emissions from the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province and/or injection of methane. Here we present a new extended organic carbon isotope record from a cored T-J boundary succession in the Danish Basin, dated by high-resolution palynostratigraphy and supplemented by a marine faunal record. Correlated with reference C-isotope and biotic records from the UK, it provides new evidence that the major biotic changes, both on land and in the oceans, commenced prior to the most prominent negative C-isotope excursion. If massive methane release was involved, it did not trigger the end-Triassic mass extinction. Instead, this negative C-isotope excursion is contemporaneous with the onset of floral recovery on land, whereas marine ecosystems remained perturbed. The decoupling between ecosystem recovery on land and in the sea is more likely explained by long-term flood basalt volcanism releasing both SO2 and CO2 with short- and long-term effects, respectively.


Hamad, A. M. B. A. Jasper, A., and D. Uhl. 2012. The record of Triassic charcoal and other evidence for palaeo-wildfires: Signal for atmospheric oxygen levels, taphonomic biases or lack of fuel? International Journal of Coal Geology  96–97: 60–71
Abstract - As wildfires are today important sources of disturbance in many terrestrial ecosystems, it is of great interest to understand how different environmental parameters and fire-activity interacted during past periods of the Earth history. Fossil charcoal, inertinites, and pyrogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) represent the only direct evidence for the occurrence of such palaeo-wildfires. In the present study, a review of published data, together with new data on the occurrence of fossil charcoal for the Permian and the Triassic is presented. For a long time, it has been speculated, that an assumed lack of evidence for palaeo-wildfires during the Triassic should be explained by a large drop in atmospheric oxygen concentration following or during the end-Permian mass extinction event, preventing the occurrence of wildfires. However, evidence for palaeo-wildfires is relatively common in many middle and late Triassic strata, whereas such evidence is almost totally lacking from early Triassic sediments. The interpretation of this “charcoal gap” or depression is difficult, as many factors (e.g. atmospheric oxygen concentration, taphonomical biases, lack of sediments suitable for the preservation of macroscopic charcoal, lack of fuel, and “ignorance” of scientists) may have influenced not only the production, but also the preservation and recovery of evidence for palaeo-wildfires during this period. Thus, it is not clear whether this Early Triassic “charcoal gap” can also be seen as evidence for an assumed “wildfire gap” or not. Without any doubt further investigations on the early Triassic record of charcoal and other evidence for palaeo-wildfires will be necessary before this problem can be solved. In fact, it can be expected that the number of published records of (early) Triassic evidence for palaeo-wildfires will increase in the future as more and more scientist working on
sediments of this age may become aware of the interest in fires from this time. This will certainly make it possible to give a much better picture of the temporal and regional distribution of wildfires during this period in the future.


Bodzioch, A., and M. Kowal-Linka. 2012. Unraveling the origin of the Late Triassic multitaxic bone accumulation at Krasiejów (S Poland) by diagenetic analysis. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology (advance online publication)

Abstract - A study of aquatic and terrestrial vertebrate remains from a bonebed in the Late Triassic continental succession near Krasiejów (S Poland) shows it was deposited by a single catastrophic event, perhaps a flood. Hardparts of Metoposaurus, Paleorhinus, and Stagonolepis show sedimentary infill and geochemical evidence for early diagenesis at different times and in different microenvironments. The infills in the aquatic animal bones (sediment, pyrite, calcite) show deposition in a freshwater environment, while those in the terrestrial Stagonolepis remains (mainly barite) point to an arid terrestial environment. The trace element content of the remains, together with the absence of a distinct pattern of element distribution, supports the conclusion that individual hardparts underwent diagenesis in various microenvironments and at different times. The accumulation of multitaxic vertebrate remains in a single bed clearly indicates event deposition. The hardparts must originally have been deposited at various locations during different times, but were later transported and deposited together in a pond by a short-lived, high-energy event, probably a flood after catastrophic rainfall.