The Triassic (from about 252 to 201 million years ago) was the first period of the Mesozoic Era. During this time, life on Earth was recovering from the largest mass extinction ever at the end of the Permian Period (see page 6).
THE FIRST DINOSAURS
There were three major dinosaur groupssauropodomorphs, theropods and ornithischiansall of which first emerged in the Triassic Period. These dinosaurs triumphed over other animals to become the dominant life form on land during the late Triassic and early Jurassic periods.
LIFE IN THE SEA
Meanwhile, in the seas, prehistoric marine reptiles began to evolve, including unusual groups such as nothosaurs, plesiosaurs, ichthyosaurs and thalattosaurs.
T urt les
Therapsids (our mammal-like ancestors)Archosaurs (pterosaurs; crocodiles; dinosaurs; and their descendants, birds)
The extinc t ion is thought to ha ve been part ly c aused by the form ation of the supercont inent Pangaea. All t he exist ing continents c rashed t ogether t o c reat e one giant landm ass.
The huge amount of volcanic activity at the end of the Permian Period made life impossible for all but the toughest animals. It took some time after this extinction for life to recover, and this period saw the rise of many new animal groups, including:
Thallasiodracon, a plesiosaur
Th is c rash wou ld ha ve caused vo lcan ic act i v it y and d istu r bed m an y g lo ba l s ystem s, such as sea le ve l and c l im ate.
Cymbospondylus, a type of ichthyosaur
Theropods, like this Herrerasaurus, were meat-eaters and walked on their back legs. Ornithischians, such as Pisanosaurus, had beaks and ate plants. Sauropods, like Plateosaurus, had long necks and tails, and small heads.