New early Jurassic tetrapod assemblages constrain Triassic-Jurassic tetrapod extinction event

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Science  28 Aug 1987:
Vol. 237, Issue 4818, pp. 1025-1029
DOI: 10.1126/science.3616622


The discovery of the first definitively correlated earliest Jurassic (200 million years before present) tetrapod assemblage (Fundy basin, Newark Supergroup, Nova Scotia) allows reevaluation of the duration of the Triassic-Jurassic tetrapod extinction event. Present are tritheledont and mammal-like reptiles, prosauropod, theropod, and ornithischian dinosaurs, protosuchian and sphenosuchian crocodylomorphs, sphenodontids, and hybodont, semionotid, and palaeonisciform fishes. All of the families are known from Late Triassic and Jurassic strata from elsewhere; however, pollen and spore, radiometric, and geochemical correlation indicate an early Hettangian age for these assemblages. Because all "typical Triassic" forms are absent from these assemblages, most Triassic-Jurassic tetrapod extinctions occurred before this time and without the introduction of new families. As was previously suggested by studies of marine invertebrates, this pattern is consistent with a global extinction event at the Triassic-Jurassic boundary. The Manicouagan impact structure of Quebec provides dates broadly compatible with the Triassic-Jurassic boundary and, following the impact theory of mass extinctions, may be implicated in the cause.