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Earliest Corals Following Trassic-Jurassic Extinction Have Been Found, Researchers Say

Oct 01, 2015 05:30 PM EDT
Jurassic Corals
Pictured here are the earliest Jurassic solitary corals discovered by researchers in New York Canyon, Nevada.
(Photo : Montana Hodges)

The Triassic-Jurassic mass extinction event wiped out entire populations of ancient coral reefs. Researchers recently discovered the earliest North American coral species that reappeared following this mass extinction. Their findings shed light on the causes behind the catastrophic event 200 million years ago.

University of Montana doctoral student Montana Hodges and geoscience Professor George Stanley found the fossils while on a dig at New York Canyon in Nevada. The fossils preserved in this area provide unique evidence regarding the Triassic-Jurassic boundary, which has drawn geologists to the site for many years. Regarding the mass extinction event, fossil records indicate that a massive global climate change is to blame, according to a news release.

"We believe the warming climate was due to a combination effect from supercontinent Pangea breaking apart, changes in sea level and massive amounts of gas spewing into the atmosphere from cracks in the Earth's crust," Hodges explained in the release.  

It took 20 million years before coral reefs recovered, and now the first ones that were able to make a comeback have been found.

"The Jurassic corals represent a recovery of all species after the event," Hodges added. "They are simple, solitary corals that lived in thick mud, which may have helped their survival during such a tumultuous time. Or they may have migrated from the distant side of Pangea."

Their findings, recently published in GSA Today, will help researchers better understand the survival and recovery of corals during this time. Hodges noted that their study may also provide valuable information regarding the degradation of coral reefs today. 

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

-Follow Samantha on Twitter @Sam_Ashley13

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