Major Bio-Events in the Triassic and Jurassic

  • Anthony Hallam


The term bio-event has usually been understood in terms of mass extinctions, and this is the sense in which it is used here. Numerous bio-events could be recognised if attention were restricted to the ammonites, the fossil group with the highest rate of turnover in time, but to qualify as major events it is necessary to show that other groups were affected also. Because of this requirement only a few major events are recognisable.

For the Triassic there are four events, two of which affected both marine and terrestrial organisms. Early in the period, the Smithian-Spathian boundary marks a severe extinction phase for ammonites, conodonts and bivalves. The mid-Carnian event is important for a number of marine invertebrate groups, especially in the Alpine region, but only for ammonites is its global significance fully established. The late Carnian event affected some marine organisms but more particularly it has been claimed to be associated with a profound turnover in terrestrial tetrapod faunas, but this claim remains controversial. The end-Triassic event is one of the five biggest for marine organisms in the whole Phanerozoic, and there were also notable extinctions among terrestrial tetrapods and plants.

Within the Jurassic only two major events are discernible, both of which are most clearly manifested in Europe, with neither being of established global significance. The early Toarcian event profoundly affected all marine benthos and nektobenthos. The Tithonian event is less striking and clear-cut in time, but is important for some marine groups.

With regard to possible causal factors, sea-level change, on either regional or global scale, seems to be implicated in most if not all of the events, because of loss of habitat area in epicontinental seas due either to regression or to the spread of anoxic bottom waters during the succeeding transgression. Anoxia is most obvious for the Toarcian event but was probably important also for the Triassic-Jurassic boundary event. Climatic change may have been important for the late Carnian event, but there is no satisfactory evidence supporting either volcanism or bolide impact as causal factors.


Middle Jurassic Mass Extinction Extinction Event Early Jurassic Lower Triassic 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anthony Hallam
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Earth SciencesUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK

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