Bivalves are the most common macrofauna present in marine sequences spanning the end-Triassic mass extinction and document the initial ecological response to the crisis. In the west-Tethyan Kössen Basin, marine bivalves occur within distinctive low diversity episodic shell beds at the time of initial crisis and δ13C minimum, and continue for 1 m (<∼20 kyr) upward into the peak extinction phase devoid of macrofauna. The paleoecology, shell mineralogy, and paleobiogeographic context of these well-preserved bivalves suggest they are part of eurytopic opportunistic paleocommunities flourishing in a time of crisis and are consistent with some, but not all, of the paleoenvironmental scenarios hypothesized in the context of synchronous volcanic activity. The best model-to-data fit is found for an ocean acidification scenario, which predicts an increased extinction risk for taxa with thick calcareous skeletons and aragonite mineralogy due to reduced CaCO3 saturation of seawater for a period of <20 kyr. Other kill mechanisms, such as climatic change and reduced salinity in nearshore marine settings, are less well supported but not fully incompatible with our data and might have acted in concert with ocean acidification.