The Permian-Triassic mass extinction (PTME) had an enormous impact on life in three ways: by substantially reducing diversity, by reshuffling the composition of ecosystems and by expelling life from the tropics following episodes of intense global warming. But was there really an 'equatorial tetrapod gap', and how long did it last? Here, we consider both skeletal and footprint data, and find a more complex pattern: (i) tetrapods were distributed both at high and low latitudes during this time; (ii) there was a clear geographic disjunction through the PTME, with tetrapod distribution shifting 10-15° poleward; and (iii) there was a rapid expansion phase across the whole of Pangea following the PTME. These changes are consistent with a model of generalized migration of tetrapods to higher latitudinal, cooler regions, to escape from the superhot equatorial climate in the earliest Triassic, but the effect was shorter in time scale, and not as pronounced as had been proposed. In the recovery phase following the PTME, this episode of forced range expansion also appears to have promoted the emergence and radiation of entirely new groups, such as the archosaurs, including the dinosaurs.