Wildlife of Gondwana: Dinosaurs and Other Vertebrates from the Ancient Supercontinent
Indiana University Press
Today, the six major continents are separated by vast seas, but it has not always been so. The relentless motion of the earth's crust sometimes joined, sometimes separated, many partners; twice such a union created the landmass of Gondwana. This great southern supercontinent once was home to an unusual array of wildlife. From small jawless fishes and primitive amphibians to dinosaurs, giant lizards, and large flightless birds, the vertebrates of Gondwana have given rise to the unique biotas of Australia and South America today. The fragmentary fossil remains from this great continent now lie scattered across southern Africa, India, Australia, Antarctica, and South America. The careful reconstruction of life on this ancient continent has occupied scientists for more than a century, though it has only been during the past three decades that the details of how that supercontinent was born, when it existed, and how it died have fully come to light. Nor has the story of the animals and plants that once lived there been adequately reconstructed until recently. This book traces a major part of that story, the history of the vertebrate faunas of Gondwana. It begins with the origin of life, before Gondwana coalesced, and follows the evolution of vertebrates from invertebrate stock, through the course of life from primitive fish to advanced mammals and birds. It explains, in detail, how the vertebrate faunas of each of the Gondwana continents developed to the present day, investigating how the shifting continental plates and changing climate have shaped the path of vertebrate evolution. Lavishly illustrated with hundreds of colour photographs, drawings, and paintings, "Wildlife of Gondwana" is a major reference to life of the past. Originally published in Australia in 1993, this corrected and augmented edition contains new material on fossil discoveries in India. The index of genera and the bibliography have also been revised and updated.