Triassic Period - Age of Dinosaurs

The Triassic Period was the first period of the Mesozoic Era. It occurred between 251 million and 199 million years ago. This period marked the beginning of major changes that were to take place throughout the Mesozoic Era, particularly in the distribution of continents, the evolution of life, and geographic allocation of living things.

In early Triassic, most of the continents were concentrated in the giant C-shaped supercontinent known as Pangea. Climate was generally much warmer than today, with no polar ice caps.The Earth's crust was relatively quiescent. Late in the Triassic, however, rifting between the northern and southern portions of Pangea led to its separation into two continents, which would be completed in the Jurassic Period. As plate tectonic activity picked up, the seas became more extensive and were colonized for the first time by large marine reptiles and reef-building corals of modern aspect. Life outside of the oceans likewise began to diversify.

The Triassic followed in the heels of the largest mass extinction in the history of the Earth. The event occurred at the end of the Permian Period, when more than 90% of marine invertebrate species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrates died out. During the recovery of life in the Triassic, the relative importance of land animals grew. Reptiles increased in diversity and number, and the first dinosaurs appeared, heralding the great radiation that would characterize this group during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. The end of the Triassic also saw the appearance of the first mammals.

Another episode of mass extinction occurred at the end of the Triassic. Though this event was less devastating than its counterpart at the end of the Permian, it also resulted in drastic reduction of some living populations.

The name Trias (later modified to Triassic) was first proposed in 1834 by the German paleontologist Friedrich August von Alberti for a sequence of rock strata in central Germany that lay above Permian rock and below Jurassic rocks. The name referred to the division of these strata into three units.

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