Field of Science

Triassic–Jurassic Mass Extinction as Trigger for the Mesozoic Radiation of Crocodylomorphs

A new study that contrasts that of Brusatte et al. (2008), who had found a significant dropoff in pseudosuchian disparity through the end Triassic extinction.

Toljagić, O., and R. J. Butler. 2013 Triassic–Jurassic mass extinction as trigger for the Mesozoic radiation of crocodylomorphs. Biology Letters 9: 20130095. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2013.0095

Abstract - Pseudosuchia, one of the two main clades of Archosauria (Reptilia: Diapsida), suffered a major decline in lineage diversity during the Triassic–Jurassic (TJ) mass extinction (approx. 201 Ma). Crocodylomorpha, including living crocodilians and their extinct relatives, is the only group of pseudosuchians that survived into the Jurassic.We reassess changes in pseudosuchian morphological diversity (disparity) across this time interval, using considerably larger sample sizes than in previous analyses. Our results show that metrics of pseudosuchian disparity did not change significantly across the TJ boundary, contrasting with previous work suggesting low pseudosuchian disparity in the Early Jurassic following the TJ mass extinction. However, a significant shift in morphospace occupation between Late Triassic and Early Jurassic taxa is recognized, suggesting that the TJ extinction of many pseudosuchian lineages was followed by a major and geologically rapid adaptive radiation of crocodylomorphs. This marks the onset of the spectacularly successful evolutionary history of crocodylomorphs in Jurassic and Cretaceous ecosystems.

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