Permian-Triassic High Latitude Life and Landscapes

Project Description
On the basis of fossil plants and paleosols recorded in the sedimentary rocks of the Transantarctic Mountains, a model of Permian to Triassic climate at high paleolatitudes is emerging: After continental glaciers melted in the early Permian, forests grew in the cold, wet climate. By the early Triassic, warmer, drier conditions inhibited prolific plant growth. A moister, but still warm climate allowed plants to flourish later in the Triassic.

We will test and refine this model and investigate the effects of climate change on Permian to Triassic landscapes and ecosystems. Using exposures in the Allan Hills, we will search for, describe, and interpret fossil forests, vertebrate tracks and burrows, arthropod trackways, and subaqueously produced biogenic structures, and document the end of glaciation and the importance of major episodic sedimentation. In so doing, we will address broader questions that will contribute to understanding

the evolution of terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems and how they are affected by the end-Permian extinction,

the abundance and diversity of terrestrial and aquatic arthropods at high latitudes,

the paleogeographic distribution and evolution of vertebrates and invertebrates as recorded by trace and body fossils, and

the response of landscapes to changes in climate.

The excellent record preserved by this Permian to Triassic sequence provides a unique opportunity to compare high-latitude forests and freshwater and terrestrial faunas with better-known low-latitude equivalents during an important period of their evolution.