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The Triassic Period

The Triassic Period was born 250 million years ago (mya) from the violent close of the Permian Period. It was here that thousands of doomed species witnessed the collision of the world’s continents, and the subsequent formation of the super continent, Pangea. The land trembled and buckled as great mountains thrust their way into the sky, volcanoes erupted and other lands sank beneath the waves. During the geologically brief existence of Pangea, the rest of the earth was covered by one vast ocean, Panthalassa.

Although the primary cause is not known, during the turbulent birth of Pangea great stresses so plagued the global environment that 95% of all species disappeared from the face of the earth.

When history’s greatest known extinction ended, the environment was ripe for the rise of thousands of new species, including early dinosaurs and small mammals. Most species living today would not exist were it not for the mysterious global disaster that marked the birth of the Triassic.

The Triassic Period came to its own violent end about 200 mya as great convective forces deep within the earth split apart the northwestern region of Pangea, and set North America adrift from what would become the African continent. With the death of Pangea and the Triassic, the Jurassic was born. This would be the time of the dinosaurs, great and small, and they would rule the earth for the next 135 million years.

Creatures of the Triassic

Coelophysis (see-lo-fi’-sis):  A late Triassic carnivorous (meat eating) Dinosaur. It was among the first dinosaurs. Its name means "hollow form," as its bones were hollow like the present day birds. It had a flexible neck, a long tail, a small head, and was about 9 feet (2.8 meters) long. It probably moved very quickly and could catch fish as well as other animals. It was a gregarious animal (living and hunting in packs), and flourished in the Southwest of what is now the United States.

Endennasaurus was a toothless reptile about one meter long. Because its limbs were poorly adapted for swimming, it probably used its tail for aquatic locomotion. On land, it moved much like an crocodile. Because it was toothless, it probably ate small crustaceans and any other soft shell creatures as well as eggs.

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Updated Fri Jan 03, 2003 6:04pm EST