Gondwana ( /ɡɒndˈwɑːnə/), or Gondwanaland, was a
supercontinent that existed from the
Neoproterozoic (about 550 million
years ago) until the
Carboniferous (about 320 million years ago). It
was formed by the accretion of several cratons. Eventually, Gondwana
became the largest piece of continental crust of the
covering an area of about 100,000,000 km2
(39,000,000 sq mi). During the Carboniferous, it merged
Euramerica to form a larger supercontinent called Pangaea.
Gondwana (and Pangaea) gradually broke up during the
Mesozoic Era. The
Gondwana make up about two-thirds of today's continental
The formation of
Gondwana began c. 800 to 650 Ma with
the East African Orogeny – the collision of India, Madagascar,
and Sri Lanka with East Africa – and was completed c.
600 to 530 Ma with the overlapping Brasiliano and Kuunga
orogenies – the collision of
South America with
Africa and the
addition of Australia and Antarctica, respectively.
1 Origin of concept
Gondwana as part of Pangaea
5.1.1 Opening of western Indian Ocean
5.1.2 Opening of eastern Indian Ocean
5.1.3 Opening of South Atlantic Ocean
5.1.4 Early Andean orogeny
6.1 Post-Cambrian diversification
6.2 Modern diversification
7 See also
9 External links
Origin of concept
The continent of
Gondwana was named by Austrian scientist Eduard
Suess, after the
Gondwana region of central northern
India which is
Sanskrit for "forest of the Gonds". The name had been
previously used in a geological context, first by H.B. Medlicott in
1872, from which the
Gondwana sedimentary sequences
(Permian-Triassic) are also described. The term "Gondwanaland" is
preferred by some scientists in order to make a clear distinction
between the region and the supercontinent.
Eastern Gondwana. 620 to 550 Ma post-collisional extension
East African Orogeny
East African Orogeny in blue and 570 to 530 Ma
collisional metamorphism of the
Kuunga orogeny in red.
The assembly of
Gondwana was a protracted process that occurred during
Paleozoic which remains relatively poorly
constrained because of the lack of paleo-magnetic data. Several
orogenies, collectively known as the Pan-African orogeny, led to the
amalgamation of most of the continental fragments of a much older
supercontinent, Rodinia. One of those orogenic belts, the Mozambique
Belt, formed 800 to 650 Ma and was originally interpreted as
the suture between East (India, Madagascar, Antarctica, and Australia)
Africa and South America). Three orogenies were
recognized during the 1990s: the East African Orogeny
(650 to 800 Ma) and
Kuunga orogeny (including the Malagasy
Orogeny in southern Madagascar) (550 Ma) – the collision between
Gondwana and East
Africa in two steps, and the Brasiliano orogeny
(660 to 530 Ma) – the collision between South American and
The final stages of Gondwanan assembly overlapped with the opening of
Iapetus Ocean between
Laurentia and western Gondwana. During
this interval, the
Cambrian explosion occurred.
Laurentia was docked
against the western shores of a united
Gondwana for a short period
near the Precambrian/Cambrian boundary, forming the short-lived and
still disputed supercontinent Pannotia.
Mozambique Ocean separated the Congo–Tanzania–Bangweulu Block
India (India, the
in far eastern Madagascar, the Seychelles, and the Napier and Rayner
Complexes in East Antarctica). The
Azania continent (much of
central Madagascar, the
Horn of Africa
Horn of Africa and parts of
Yemen and Arabia)
was an island in the Mozambique Ocean.
The Australia/Mawson continent was still separated from India, eastern
Africa, and Kalahari by c. 600 Ma when most of western
already been amalgamated. By c. 550 Ma,
India had reached its
Gondwana position which initiated the
Kuunga orogeny (also known as
the Pinjarra orogeny). Meanwhile, on the other side of the forming
Africa, Kalahari collided with Congo and Rio de la Plata which closed
the Adamastor Ocean. c. 540–530 Ma the closure of the
Mozambique Ocean brought
India next to Australia–
East Antarctica and
both North and South China were located in proximity to Australia.
Other blocks which helped to form parts of the
Southern Cone of South
America, including a piece transferred from
Laurentia when the west
Gondwana scraped against southeast
Laurentia in the
Ordovician. This is the
Cuyania or Precordillera terrane of the
Famatinian orogeny in northwest Argentina which may have continued the
line of the
Reconstruction showing final stages of assembly of Gondwana, 550 Mya
As the rest of
Gondwana formed, a complex series of orogenic events
assembled the eastern parts of
Gondwana (eastern Africa,
Arabian-Nubian Shield, Seychelles, Madagascar, India, Sri Lanka, East
Antarctica, and Australia) c. 750 to 530 Ma. First the
Arabian-Nubian Shield collided with eastern
Africa (in the
Kenya-Tanzania region) in the East African Orogeny
c.750 to 620 Ma. Then Australia and
East Antarctica were
merged with the remaining
Gondwana c. 570 to 530 Ma in the
The later Malagasy orogeny at about 550–515 Mya affected
Madagascar, eastern East
Africa and southern India. In it,
India collided with the already combined
Congo–Tanzania–Bangweulu Block, suturing along the Mozambique
The 18,000 km (11,000 mi)-long
Terra Australis Orogen
developed along Gondwana's western, southern, and eastern margins.
Proto-Gondwanan Cambrian arc belts from this margin have been found in
eastern Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, and Antarctica. Though these
belts formed a continuous arc chain, the direction of subduction was
different between the Australian-Tasmanian and New Zealand-Antarctica
Gondwana as part of Pangaea
Gondwana formed part of
Pangaea for c. 150 Ma
Main article: Pangaea
Laurussia formed the
Pangaea supercontinent during the
Pangaea began to break up in the Mid-
Jurassic when the
Central Atlantic opened.
In the western end of Pangaea, the collision between
Laurussia closed the Rheic and Palaeo-Tethys oceans. The obliquity of
this closure resulted in the docking of some northern terranes in the
Marathon, Ouachita, Alleghanian, and Variscan orogenies, respectively.
Southern terranes, such as Chortis and Oaxaca, on the other hand,
remained largely unaffected by the collision along the southern shores
of Laurentia. Some Peri-Gondwanan terranes, such as Yucatán and
Florida, were buffered from collisions by major promontories. Other
terranes, such as Carolina and Meguma, were directly involved in the
collision. The final collision resulted in the Variscan-Appalachian
Mountains, stretching from present-day Mexico to southern Europe.
Baltica collided with Siberia and
resulted in the
Uralian orogeny and Laurasia.
Pangaea was finally
amalgamated in the Late Carboniferous-Early
Permian but the oblique
forces continued until
Pangaea began to rift in the Triassic.
In the eastern end collisions occurred slightly later. The North
China, South China, and Indochina blocks rifted from
Paleozoic and opened the Proto-Tethys Ocean. North China
docked with Mongolia and Siberia during the Carboniferous–Permian
followed by South China. The Cimmerian blocks then rifted from
Gondwana to form the Palaeo-Thethys and Neo-Tethys oceans in the Late
Carboniferous and docked with
Asia during the
Triassic and Jurassic.
Pangaea began to rift while the eastern end was still being
The formation of
Pangaea and its mountains had a tremendous impact on
global climate and sea levels, which resulted in glaciations and
continent-wide sedimentation. In North America, the base of the
Absaroka sequence coincides with the Alleghanian and Ouachita
orogenies and are indicative of a large-scale change in the mode of
deposition far away from the Pangaean orogenies. Ultimately, these
changes contributed to the Permian–
Triassic extinction event and
left large deposits of hydrocarbons, coal, evaporite, and metals.
The break-up of
Pangaea began with the Central Atlantic magmatic
province (CAMP) between South America, Africa, North America, and
Europe. CAMP covered more than seven million square kilometres over a
few million years, reached its peak at c. 200 Ma, and coincided with
Jurassic extinction event. The reformed Gondwanan
continent was not precisely the same as that which had existed before
Pangaea formed; for example, most of
Florida and southern Georgia and
Alabama is underlain by rocks that were originally part of Gondwana,
but this region stayed attached to
North America when the Central
A large number of terranes were accreted to
Eurasia during Gondwana's
existence but the Cambrian or Precambrian origin of many of these
terranes remains uncertain. For example, some Palaeozoic terranes and
microcontinents that now make up Central Asia, often called the
"Kazakh" and "Mongolian terranes", were progressively amalgamated into
Kazakhstania in the Late Silurian. Whether these blocks
originated on the shores of
Gondwana is not known.
In the Early Palaeozoic the Armorican terrane, which today form large
parts of France, was part of either Peri-
Gondwana or core Gondwana;
Rheic Ocean closed in front of it and the Palaeo-Tethys Ocean
opened behind it. Precambrian rocks from the
Iberian Peninsula suggest
it too probably formed part of core
Gondwana before its detachment as
an orocline in the
Variscan orogeny close to the
Asia is made of Gondwanan and Cathaysian continental
fragments that were assembled during the Mid-Palaeozoic and Cenozoic.
This process can be divided into three phases of rifting along
Gondwana's northern margin: firstly, in the Devonian, North and South
China together with Tarim and Quidam (north-western China) rifted
opening the Palaeo-Tethys behind them. These terranes accreted to Asia
Devonian and Permian. Secondly, in the Late Carboniferous
to Early Permian, Cimmerian terranes opened Meso-Tethys Ocean;
Sibumasu and Qiantang were added to south-east
Asia during Late
Permian and Early Jurassic. Thirdly, in the Late
Triassic to Late
Jurassic, Lhasa, West Burma, Woyla terranes opened the Neo-Tethys
Ocean; Lhasa collided with
Asia during the
Early Cretaceous and West
Burma and Woyla during the Late Cretaceous.
Neoproterozoic to Palaeozoic phase of the Terra Australis
orogen a series of terranes were rafted from the Andean margin when
the Iapteus Ocean opened, to be added back to
Gondwana during the
closure of that ocean.
Gondwana's long, northern margin had remained a mostly passive margin
throughout the Palaeozoic. The Early
Permian opening of the Neo-Tethys
Ocean along this margin produced a long series of terranes many of
which were and still are being deformed in the Himalaya Orogeny. From
Turkey to north-eastern India: the Taurides in southern Turkey; the
Terrane in Georgia; the Sanand, Alborz, and Lut
terranes in Iran; the Mangysglak or Kopetdag
Terrane in the Caspian
Sea; the Afghan Terrane; the Karakorum
Terrane in northern Pakistan;
and the Lhasa and Qiangtang terranes in Tibet. The Permian–Triassic
widening of the Neo-Tethys pushed all these terranes across the
Equator and over to Eurasia.
Antarctica, the centre of the supercontinent, shared boundaries with
Gondwana continents and the fragmentation of Gondwana
propagated clockwise around it. The break-up was the result of one of
the Earth's most extensive large igneous provinces c.
200 to 170 Ma, but the oldest magnetic anomalies between
South America, Africa, and
Antarctica are found in what is now the
Weddell Sea where initial break-up occurred during the
Jurassic c. 160 to 180 Ma.
Opening of western Indian Ocean
The first ocean floor formed between
150 Ma (left) and between
India and Madagscar c. 70 Ma
Gondwana began to break up in the early
Jurassic following the
extensive and fast emplacement of the
Karoo-Ferrar flood basalts c.
184 Ma. Before the Karoo plume initiated rifting between
Antarctica, it separated a series of smaller continental blocks from
Gondwana's southern, Proto-Pacific margin (along what is now the
Transantarctic Mountains): the Antarctic Peninsula, Marie Byrd Land,
Zealandia, and Thurston Island; the
Falkland Islands and
Ellsworth–Whitmore Mountains (in Antarctica) were rotated 90° in
opposite directions; and
South America south of the Gastre Fault
(often referred to as Patagonia) was pushed westward. The history
of the Africa-
Antarctica break-up can be studied in great detail in
the fracture zones and magnetic anomalies flanking the Southwest
Madagascar block and the Mascarene Plateau, stretching from the
Seychelles to Réunion, were broken off India; elements of this
breakup nearly coincide with the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction
event. The India–Madagascar–
Seychelles separations appear to
coincide with the eruption of the Deccan basalts, whose eruption site
may survive as the
Réunion hotspot. The
Seychelles and the Maldives
are now separated by the Central Indian Ridge.
During the initial break-up in the Early
Jurassic a marine
transgression swept over the
Horn of Africa
Horn of Africa covering Triassic
planation surfaces with sandstone, limestone, shale, marls and
Opening of eastern Indian Ocean
The first ocean floor formed between
120 Ma (left). The Kerguelen LIP began to form the Ninety East
ridge c. 80 Ma (centre). The Indian and Australian plates merged
c. 40 Ma (right).
East Gondwana, comprising Antarctica, Madagascar, India, and
Australia, began to separate from Africa. East
Gondwana then began to
break up c. 132.5 to 96 Ma when
India moved northwest from
Indian Plate and the Australian Plate
are now separated by the
Capricorn Plate and its diffuse
boundaries. During the opening of the Indian Ocean, the Kerguelen
hotspot first formed the
Kerguelen Plateau on the
Antarctic Plate c.
118 to 95 Ma and then the
Ninety East Ridge
Ninety East Ridge on the Indian
Plate at c. 100 Ma. The
Kerguelen Plateau and the Broken Ridge,
the southern end of the Ninety East Ridge, are now separated by the
Southeast Indian Ridge.
Separation between Australia and
East Antarctica began c. 132 Ma with
sea-floor spreading occurring c. 96 Ma. A shallow seaway developed
South Tasman Rise during the Early
Cenozoic and as oceanic
crust started to separate the continents during the
Eocene c. 35.5 Ma
global ocean temperature dropped significantly. A dramatic shift
from arc- to rift magmatism c. 100 Ma separated Zealandia, including
New Zealand, the Campbell Plateau, Chatham Rise, Lord Howe Rise,
Norfolk Ridge, and New Caledonia, from
West Antarctica c. 84 Ma.
Opening of South Atlantic Ocean
At c. 126 Ma (left) the Falkland Plateau began to slide past
Africa and the Paraná-Etendeka LIP had opened the
Mid-Atlantic Ridge. At c. 83 Ma (right) the South Atlantic was
fully opened and the Romanche Fracture Zone was forming near the
The opening of the
South Atlantic Ocean
South Atlantic Ocean divided West
America and Africa), but there is a considerable debate over the exact
timing of this break-up. Rifting propagated from south to north along
Jurassic lineaments, but intra-continental rifts also
began to develop within both continents in Jurassic–Cretaceous
sedimentary basins; subdividing each continent into three sub-plates.
Rifting began c. 190 Ma at Falkland latitudes, forcing Patagonia to
move relative to the still static remainder of
South America and
Africa, and this westward movement lasted until the Early Cretaceous
126.7 Ma. From there rifting propagated northward during the Late
Jurassic c. 150 Ma or
Early Cretaceous c. 140 Ma most likely forcing
dextral movements between sub-plates on either side. South of the
Walvis Ridge and
Rio Grande Rise
Rio Grande Rise the Paraná and Etendeka magmatics
resulted in further ocean-floor spreading c. 130 to 135 Ma
and the development of rifts systems on both continents, including the
Rift System and the
Central African Shear Zone
Central African Shear Zone which
lasted until c. 85 Ma. At Brazilian latitudes spreading is more
difficult to assess because of the lack of palaeo-magnetic data, but
rifting occurred in Nigeria at the
Benue Trough c. 118 Ma. North of
the Equator the rifting began after 120.4 Ma and continued until c.
100 to 96 Ma.
Early Andean orogeny
The first phases of
Andean orogeny in the
Jurassic and Early
Cretaceous were characterized by extensional tectonics, rifting, the
development of back-arc basins and the emplacement of large
batholiths. This development is presumed to have been linked
to the subduction of cold oceanic lithosphere. During the mid to
Late Cretaceous (ca. 90 million years ago) the
Andean orogeny changed
significantly in character. Warmer and younger oceanic
lithosphere is believed to have started to be subducted beneath South
America around this time. Such kind of subduction is held responsible
not only for the intense contractional deformation that different
lithologies were subject to, but also the uplift and erosion known to
have occurred from the
Late Cretaceous onward. Plate tectonic
reorganization since the mid-Cretaceous might also have been linked to
the opening of the South Atlantic Ocean. Another change related to
mid-Cretaceous plate tectonic changes was the change of subduction
direction of the oceanic lithosphere that went from having south-east
motion to having a north-east motion at about 90 million years
ago. While subduction direction changed it remained oblique (and
not perpendicular) to the coast of South America, and the direction
change affected several subduction zone-parallel faults including
Atacama, Domeyko and Liquiñe-Ofqui.
Indian subcontinent began to collide with
Asia c. 70 Ma since when
more than 1,400 km (870 mi) of crust has been absorbed by
the Himalayan-Tibetan orogen. During the
Cenozoic the orogen resulted
in the construction of the
Tibetan Plateau between the Tethyan
Himalayas in the south and the Kunlun and Qilian mountains in the
South America was connected to
North America via the Isthmus of
Panama, cutting off a circulation of warm water and thereby making the
Arctic colder, as well as allowing the Great American Interchange.
The breakup of
Gondwana can be said to continue in eastern
the Afar Triple Junction, which separates the Arabian, Nubian, and
Somali plates, resulting in rifting in the
Red Sea and East African
In the Early
Cenozoic Australia was still connected to
35–40° south of its current location and both continents were
largely unglaciated. A rift between the two developed but remained an
embayment until the Eocene-Oligocene boundary when the Circumpolar
Current developed and the glaciation of
Australia was warm and wet during the Palaeocene and dominated by
rainforest. The opening of the Tasman Gateway at the Eocene-Oligocene
boundary (33 Ma) resulted in abrupt cooling but the Oligocene became a
period of high rainfall with swamps in southeast Australia. During the
Miocene a warm and humid climate developed with pockets of rainforests
in central Australia but before the end of the period colder and drier
climate severely reduced this rainforest. A brief period of increased
rainfall in the Pliocene was followed by drier climate which favoured
grassland. Since then the fluctuation between wet interglacial periods
and dry glacial periods has developed into the present arid regime.
Australia has thus experienced various climate changes over a 15
million year period with a gradual decrease in precipitation.
The Tasman Gateway between Australia and
Antarctica began to open c.
40 to 30 Ma. Palaeontological evidences indicate the
Antarctic Circumpolar Current
Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) was established in the Late
Oligocene c. 23 Ma with the full opening of the
Drake Passage and the
deepening of the Tasman Gateway. The oldest oceanic crust in the Drake
Passage, however, is 34 to 29 Ma-old which indicates
spreading between the Antarctic and South American plates began near
the Eocene/Oligocene boundary. Deep sea environments in Tierra del
Fuego and the
North Scotia Ridge
North Scotia Ridge during the
Eocene and Oligocene
indicate a "Proto-ACC" opened opened during this period. Later,
26 to 14 Ma, a series of events severally restricted the
Proto-ACC: change to shallow marine conditions along the North Scotia
Ridge; closure of the Fuegan Seaway, the deep sea that existed in
Tierra del Fuego; and uplift of the Patagonian Cordillera. This,
together with the reactivated Iceland plume, contributed to global
warming. During the Miocene, the
Drake Passage began to widen and as
water flow between
South America and the Antarctic Peninsula
increased, the renewed ACC resulted in cooler global climate.
Eocene the northward movement of the
Australian Plate has
resulted in an arc-continent collision with the Philippine and
Caroline plates and the uplift of the New Guinea Highlands. From
the Oligocene to the late Miocene, the climate in Australia, dominated
by warm and humid rainforests before this collision, began to
alternate between open forest and rainforest before the continent
became the arid or semiarid landscape it is today.
See also: Evolutionary history of plants
Banksia, a grevilleoid Proteaceae, is an example a plant with a
The adjective "Gondwanan" is in common use in biogeography when
referring to patterns of distribution of living organisms, typically
when the organisms are restricted to two or more of the
now-discontinuous regions that were once part of Gondwana, including
the Antarctic flora. For example, the plant family Proteaceae,
known from all continent in the Southern Hemisphere, has a "Gondwanan
distribution" and is often described as an archaic, or relict,
lineage. The distributions in
Proteaceae is, nevertheless, the result
of both Gondwanan rafting and later oceanic dispersal.
Gondwana extended from the Equator (Australia) to
the South Pole (North
Africa and South America) whilst
located on the Equator opposite to Australia. A short-lived Late
Ordovician glaciation was followed by a
Silurian Hot House period.
Ordovician extinction, which resulted in 27% of marine
invertebrate families and 57% of genera going extinct, occurred during
this shift from Ice House to Hot House.
Reconstructions of (left) a Late
Silurian Cooksonia, the first land
plant, and (right) a Late
Devonian Archaeopteris, the first large
By the end of the
Ordovician Cooksonia, a slender, ground-covering
plant, became the first vascular plant to establish itself on land.
This first colonisation occurred exclusively around the Equator on
landmasses then limited to
Laurasia and, in Gondwana, to Australia. In
Silurian two distinctive linages, zosterophylls and
rhyniophytes, had colonised the tropics. The former evolved into the
lycopods, that were to dominate the Gondwanan vegetation over a long
period, whilst the latter evolved into horsetails and gymnosperms.
Gondwana was located far from the Equator during this period
and remained a lifeless and barren landscape.
Gondwana drifted north during the
Devonian which brought Gondwana
Laurasia close together. Global cooling contributed to the Late
Devonian extinction (19% of marine families and 50% of genera went
extinct) and glaciation occurred in South America. Before
formed terrestrial plants, such as pteridophytes, began to diversify
rapidly resulting in the colonisation of Gondwana. The Baragwanathia
Flora, found only in the Yea Beds of Victoria, Australia, occurs in
two strata separated by 1,700 m (5,600 ft) or 30 Ma;
the upper assemblage is more diverse and includes Baragwanathia, the
first primitive herbaceous lycopod to evolve from the zosterophylls.
Devonian giant club mosses replaced the Baragwanathia
Flora, introducing the first trees, and by the Late
first forest was accompanied by the progymnosperms, including the
first large trees Archaeopteris. The Late
probably also resulted in osteolepiform fishes evolving into the
amphibian tetrapods, the earliest land vertebrates, in Greenland and
Russia. The only traces of this evolution in
Gondwana are amphibian
footprints and a single jaw from Australia.
The closure of the
Rheic Ocean and the formation of
Pangaea in the
Carboniferous resulted in the rerouting of ocean currents which
initiated an Ice House period. As
Gondwana began to rotate clockwise,
Australia shifted south to more temperate latitudes. An ice cap
initially covered most of southern
South America but began
to spread to eventually cover most of the supercontinent, save for
South America and eastern Australia. Giant
lycopod and horsetail forests continued to evolve in tropical Laurasia
together with a diversified assemblage of true insects. In Gondwana,
in contrast, ice and, in Australia, volcanism decimated the Devonian
flora to a low-diversity seed fern flora – the pteridophytes
were increasingly replaced by the gymnosperms which were to dominate
until the Mid-Cretaceous. Australia, however, was still located near
the Equator during the Early
Carboniferous and during this period
temnospondyl and lepospondyl amphibians and the first amniote
reptileans evolved, all closely related to the Laurasian fauna, but
spreading ice eventually drove these animals away from Gondwana
Walchia and Utrechtia, two voltzialean pines from which
modern conifers evolved
Triassic conifers (Agathis, Wollemia, Araucaria, and
Podocarpus) that once dominated Gondwana
Gondwana ice sheet melted and sea levels dropped during the
Triassic global warming. During this period, the extinct
Gondwana and reached peak diversity in the
Permian when coal-forming forests covered much of Gondwana. The
period also saw the evolution of Voltziales; one of the few plant
orders to survive the end-
Permian extinction (57% of marine families
and 83% of genera went extinct) which came to dominate in the Late
Permian and from whom true conifers evolved. Tall lycopods and
horsetails dominated the wetlands of
Gondwana in the Early Permian.
Insects co-evolved with glossopterids across
Gondwana and diversified
with more than 200 species in 21 orders by the Late Permian, many
known from South
Africa and Australia. Beetles and cockroaches
remained minor elements in this fauna.
Tetrapod fossils from the Early
Permian have only been found in
Laurasia but they became common in
Gondwana later during the Permian. The arrival of the therapsids
resulted in the first plant-vertebrate-insect ecosystem.
During the Mid- to Late
Triassic Hot House condition coincided with a
peak in biodiversity — the end-
Permian extinction was huge and
so was the radiation that followed. Two families of conifers,
Podocarpaceae and Araucariaceae, dominated
Gondwana in the Early
Triassic, but Dicroidium, an extinct genus of fork-leaved seed ferns,
dominated woodlands and forests of
Gondwana during most of the
Triassic. Conifers evolved and radiated during the period with six of
eight extant families already present before the end of it.
Bennettitales and Pentoxylales, two now extinct orders of
gymnospermous plants, evolved in the Late
Triassic and became
important in the
Jurassic and Cretaceous. It is possible that
gymnosperm biodiversity surpassed later angiosperm biodiversity and
that the evolution of angiosperms began during the
Triassic but, if
Laurasia rather than in Gondwana. Two Gondwanan classes,
lycophytes and sphenophytes, saw a gradual decline during the Triassic
while ferns, though never dominant, managed to diversify.
The brief ice house of the
Triassic–Jurassic extinction event
Triassic–Jurassic extinction event had a
dramatic impact on dinosaurs but left plants largely unaffected. The
Jurassic was mostly a hot house and while vertebrates managed to
diversify in this environment plants has left little evidence of such
development, with the exception of Cheiroleidiacean conifers and
Caytoniales and other groups of seed ferns. In terms of biomass the
Jurassic flora was dominated by conifers families and other
gymnosperms that had evolved during the Triassic. The Pteridophytes,
that had dominated during the Palaeozoic, were now marginalised,
except for ferns. In contrast to Laurentia, very few insect fossils
have been found in
Gondwana to a large extent because of widespread
deserts and volcanism. While plants had a cosmopolitan distribution,
dinosaur evolved and diversified in a pattern that reflects the
Jurassic break-up of Panagaea.
The Cretaceous saw the arrival of the angiosperms, or flowering
plants, a group that probably evolved in western
America-Africa). From there the angiosperms diversified in two stages:
the monocots and magnoliids evolved in the
Early Cretaceous followed
by the hammamelid dicots. By the Mid-Cretaceous angiosperms
constituted half of the flora in northeastern Australia. There is,
however, no obvious connection between this spectacular angiosperm
radiation and an extinction event nor vertebrate/insect evolution.
Insect orders associated with pollination, such as beetles, flies,
butterflies and moths, and wasps, bees, and ants, radiated
continuously from the Permian-
Triassic long before the arrival of the
angiosperms. Well-preserved insect fossils have been found in the lake
deposits of the
Santana Formation in Brazil, the Koonwarra Lake fauna
in Australia, and the
Orapa diamond mine
Orapa diamond mine in Botswana. Dinosaurs
continued to prosper but, as the angiosperm diversified, conifers,
bennettitaleans and pentoxylaleans disappeared from
115 Ma together with the specialised herbivorous ornithischians
whilst generalist browsers such as several families of sauropodomorph
Saurischia prevailed. The Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event
killed off all dinosaurs except birds, but plant evolution in Gondwana
was hardly affected by the event.
Gondwanatheria is an extinct
group of non-therian mammals with a Gondwanan distribution (South
America, Africa, Madagascar, India, and Antarctica) during the Late
Cretaceous and Palaeogene.
Xenarthra and Afrotheria, two placental
clades, are of Gondwanan origin and probably began to evolve
separately c. 105 Ma when
South America separated.
Nothofagus plant genus illustrates Gondwanan distribution, having
descended from the supercontinent and existing in present-day
Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia, and the Southern Cone. Fossils
have also recently been found in Antarctica.
The laurel forest of Australia, New Caledonia, and
New Zealand have a
number of other related species of the laurissilva de Valdivia,
through the connection of the
Antarctic flora as gymnosperms and
deciduous angiosperm Nothofagus.
Corynocarpus laevigatus is called the
bay of New Zealand,
Laurelia novae-zelandiae belongs to the same genus
Laurelia. The sempervirens tree niaouli grows in Australia, New
Caledonia, and New Zealand.
New Caledonia and
New Zealand ecoregions
became separated from Australia by continental drift 85 million years
ago. The islands still retain plants that originated in
spread to the Southern Hemisphere continents later. However, strong
evidence exists of glaciation during the
Carboniferous to Permian
time, especially in South Africa.
Continental drift, the movement of the Earth's continents relative to
Gondwana Rainforests of Australia
The Great Escarpment of Southern Africa
Plate tectonics, a theory which describes the large-scale motions of
South Polar dinosaurs, which proliferated during the Early Cretaceous
(145–100 Mya) while Australia was still linked to
Antarctica to form
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^ Powell, Roots & Veevers 1988, Abstract
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Graphical subjects dealing with Tectonics and Paleontology
Gondwana Reconstruction and Dispersion
Gondwana Map Project
Continents of the world
Possible future supercontinents
Mythical and hypothesised continents
See also Regions of the world