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Early Mesozoic Terrestrial Ecosystems: Faunal Changes Among Vertebrates

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 July 2017

Nicholas C. Fraser*
Affiliation:
Virginia Museum of Natural History, 1001 Douglas Avenue, Martinsville, VA 24112 USA
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The past decade has seen many advances in research on vertebrate faunas of the Triassic period. The end of the Triassic now is cited widely as the dawn of modern terrestrial ecosystems, and currently the earliest mammals, turtles, lissamphibians (frogs, toads and salamanders), lizards, and crocodiles are all documented from this period. Admittedly many of these early members of present day higher order taxa were very different from their modern counterparts. For instance, the earliest crocodiles were highly active cursorial forms (e.g., Crush, 1984), and the mammals were very different to the living placentals and marsupials. Nevertheless, they possessed many of the key morphological characteristics that diagnose the group and that may well have contributed to their ultimate success. However, the Triassic was also a time of bizarre and enigmatic tetrapods, some of whose relationships are the subject of considerable debate. Indeed, in the last year this debate has reached new heights with suggestions that certain rather unusual Triassic non-dinosaurian tetrapods may have more bearing on bird origins than theropod dinosaurs. This debate has been fueled by the discoveries of feathered dinosaurs from China which, on the face of it, one might expect to dampen the search for alternative hypotheses regarding bird origins.

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Research Article
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Copyright © 2000 by the Paleontological Society 

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