The Fossil History of Australia

Mesozoic Era
- Triassic Period

(248 to 213 million years ago)

The Mesozoic, or middle era, is also known as the era of the dinosaurs. It begins with the Triassic period, which follows the great extinction of the Permian time.

Although Australia, as part of the Pangaea supercontinent, was near the south pole, global climate conditions were warmer than today, and flora and fauna were able to recover and many new species are known from this time.

Although amphibians were common in the north by this time, it was not until the Triassic that they were common in Australia, the main group being the labrinthodonts, whose tracks and fossilized bones are found around the Sydney area.

Thecodont reptiles, early forerunner of the dinosaur, have also been detected from this time. These reptiles were able to run using only their back legs with a large tail for balance. Traces of dinosaurs, originally quite a small animal, were found dating from the late Triassic period. Dinosaurs were not significant in this part of the world until the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.

In the sea, there were sharks and lungfish, as well as molluscs, including a group called the ammoniods. On land, the warmer weather encouraged the development of several insect species including the cockroach, which has remained on the planet ever since.

Despite the long polar nights in winter and the long day in summer, the weather was warm enough for considerable plant growth. Seed ferns were the dominant plants, with conifers and clubmosses also common.

However, at the end of the Triassic, there was another mass extinction, and many of these new plants and animals such as the thecodont, were no longer found after that time. Although there is speculation that temperature changes, or impact by a meteor may have cased this, it is not clear what caused this extinction.

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