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Ascent of Dinosaurs Linked to an Iridium Anomaly at the Triassic-Jurassic Boundary

Olsen, Paul E.; Kent, Dennis V.; Montanari, Alessandro; Rainforth, Emma C.; Huber, Heinz; Fowell, Sarah J.; Sues, Hans-Dieter; Koeberl, Christian; Szajna, Michael J.; Hartline, Brian W.

Analysis of tetrapod footprints and skeletal material from more than 70 localities in eastern North America shows that large theropod dinosaurs appeared less than 10,000 years after the Triassic-Jurassic boundary and less than 30,000 years after the last Triassic taxa, synchronous with a terrestrial mass extinction. This extraordinary turnover is associated with an iridium anomaly (up to 285 parts per trillion, with an average maximum of 141 parts per trillion) and a fern spore spike, suggesting that a bolide impact was the cause. Eastern North American dinosaurian diversity reached a stable maximum less than 100,000 years after the boundary, marking the establishment of dinosaur-dominated communities that prevailed for the next 135 million years.

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Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
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December 12, 2011
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