UCMP sponsors Triassic workshop

by Kevin Padian (page 1 of 3)
Andy Heckart at the workshop
Andy Heckart (New Mexico Museum of Natural History) pores over some problematic bones. (these photos by Tim Fedak)

Over the weekend of November 12-14, nearly two dozen international experts on the Triassic Period gathered at Berkeley for several days of research, discussion, and collaboration on the animals that populated the earth at the beginning of the Age of Dinosaurs, over 200 million years ago. Some participants were established workers in the field, but most were students and younger professional scientists. They came to benefit from each other’s knowledge and from the UCMP’s great collection of Triassic fossils, one of the best in the world.

The Triassic-Jurassic Transition
Why convene a workshop on the Triassic? During this interval the world’s biota changed completely. The great extinction at the end of the Permian Period, 250 million years ago, had wiped out more marine life than any such event in history, but the far-reaching effects on land organisms occurred somewhat later. By the Middle Triassic an entirely new group of animals, related to today’s reptiles, took over the Earth from faunas that had been dominated by distant

  Nick Fraser at the workshop Nick Fraser (Virginia Museum of Natural History) was one of the “senior” scientists who came to participate and learn.

relatives of mammals in the Permian. The diversification of these reptiles through the rest of the Triassic was dramatic. Many new groups flowered and faded quickly, but the entire “modern” land fauna—dinosaurs, pterosaurs, lizards, turtles, crocodiles, mammals, and other groups—had its beginnings in the Late Triassic and took over things relatively rapidly.
The details of this transition were last overhauled in the late 1970s and early 1980s. At that time, new insights into the correlation of rocks and faunas worldwide, as well as new geochronological dates, pushed a lot of supposedly Triassic rocks into the Early Jurassic, where previously very little had been known. This realignment not only gave us an Early Jurassic record, it also showed the pace of change as the first dinosaurs emerged in Late Triassic faunas and then diversified in a very short

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