The end-Triassic marks one of the five biggest mass extinctions, but current geologic time scales are inadequate for understanding its dynamics. A tuff layer in marine sedimentary rocks encompassing the Triassic-Jurassic transition yielded a U-Pb zircon age of 199.6 ± 0.3 Ma. The dated level is immediately below a prominent change in radiolarian faunas and the last occurrence of conodonts. Additional recently obtained U-Pb ages integrated with ammonoid biochronology confirm that the Triassic Period ended ca. 200 Ma, several million years later than suggested by previous time scales. Published dating of continental sections suggests that the extinction peak of terrestrial plants and vertebrates occurred before 200.6 Ma. The end-Triassic biotic crisis on land therefore appears to have preceded that in the sea by at least several hundred thousand years.