Reduction in animal abundance and oxygen availability during and after the end-Triassic mass extinction

Pulkit Singh, Wanyi Lu, Zunli Lu, Adam B. Jost, Kimberly Lau, Aviv Bachan, Bas van de Schootbrugge, Jonathan L. Payne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The end-Triassic biodiversity crisis was one of the most severe mass extinctions in the history of animal life. However, the extent to which the loss of taxonomic diversity was coupled with a reduction in organismal abundance remains to be quantified. Further, the temporal relationship between organismal abundance and local marine redox conditions is lacking in carbonate sections. To address these questions, we measured skeletal grain abundance in shallow-marine limestones by point counting 293 thin sections from four stratigraphic sections across the Triassic/Jurassic boundary in the Lombardy Basin and Apennine Platform of western Tethys. Skeletal abundance decreased abruptly across the Triassic/Jurassic boundary in all stratigraphic sections. The abundance of skeletal organisms remained low throughout the lower-middle Hettangian strata and began to rebound during the late Hettangian and early Sinemurian. A two-way ANOVA indicates that sample age (p <.01, η2 = 0.30) explains more of the variation in skeletal abundance than the depositional environment or paleobathymetry (p <.01, η2 = 0.15). Measured I/Ca ratios, a proxy for local shallow-marine redox conditions, show this same pattern with the lowest I/Ca ratios occurring in the early Hettangian. The close correspondence between oceanic water column oxygen levels and skeletal abundance indicates a connection between redox conditions and benthic organismal abundance across the Triassic/Jurassic boundary. These findings indicate that the end-Triassic mass extinction reduced not only the biodiversity but also the carrying capacity for skeletal organisms in early Hettangian ecosystems, adding to evidence that mass extinction of species generally leads to mass rarity among survivors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-192
Number of pages18
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • Triassic–Jurassic extinction
  • faunal abundance
  • mass extinction
  • ocean redox
  • skeletal abundance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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