A decade of fossil evidence uncovered and analyzed by researchers at the University of Washington sheds new light on the Triassic period, according to new research set to be published in the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.
A mass extinction rocked the Earth roughly 252 million years ago. Shortly after, animals — including early mammals and the first dinosaurs — began to take over the land outside of the ocean. While researchers know the time period existed, they do not have a lot of information on it.
The team in the new study helped bridge that gap by uncovering fossils in Zambia and Tanzania, examining previously collected fossils, and analyzing specimens in museums around the world. In all, the team published 13 papers looking at new fossils, geologic discoveries, and ecological findings in the Triassic period.
The group started their work in 2007, and has been diligently collecting research since that time. All of the sites they visited throughout Tanzania and Zambia have fossils from Triassic and other periods, but the goal of the project is to look across vastly different locations and find similarities between them.
“Most of what we know about the major mass extinction is from the South African Karoo Basin,” explained co-editor Christian Sidor, a professor at the University of Washington, according to Science Daily. “I was always interested in understanding, do we see the exact same pattern around the world, or do we not? The fossil record can be great to understand timing and sequence, but not always great at looking at things in a geographic context.”
Most of the papers discuss new fossils from species such as the lizard-like procolophonid, and an early dinosaur relative known as Teleocrater. The studies also shed light on non-dinosaur animals that lived during the Triassic period, giving scientists a brand new look into a previously undiscovered world.