The Triassic Period (ca. 250 – 200 million years ago) is familiar to most as the “dawn of the Age of Dinosaurs.” It’s true that the first dinosaurs appeared in the Triassic, along with a staggering number of other familiar animal groups including turtles, “modern” amphibians (lissamphibians), “modern” sharks (neoselachians), pterosaurs, lizards, mammals, “modern” corals (scleractinians), several important plankton lineages (coccolithophores, radiolarians, possibly diatoms) and I could go on and on.
But Triassic ecosystems were also filled a variety of ridiculous, absurd and downright protarded creatures that would (and probably have) make Dougal Dixon weep. In the technical literature these bizarre animals, frequently of dubious affinity, are often saddled with the diplomatic label “enigmatic.” Enigmatic, you know, like your cousin Larry with all of the Happy Meal toys in their original wrappers.
Starting, uh I guess next week (kinda boxed myself in with the series title there didn’t I?), we’ll take a closer look at some of these creatures. Beginning with this jaunty fellow: