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Evolution of Australian Biota Essay

1. Construct a timeline that identifies the key events in the formation of Australia as an island continent from its origins as part of Gondwana: mya = million years ago scale=1 cm:10 mya

2. Illustrate the direction of movement and position of continents over time by constructing a series of diagrams of the continents that formed from Gondwana. For each set of diagrams include how many millions of years ago each position occurred: Mio = million

3. Describe evidence of the changing environmental conditions on the Australian continent as a result of this movement. Triassic period (200-250mya): During this period Australia was connected to the other countries that make up Gondwana and as a result they all shared similar climates. Australia was near the equator so it was hot and dry with infrequent rains. Some parts of Australia were flooded as sea water levels increased because of the absence of polar ice caps. Jurassic period (200-145mya): During this period Australia was drifting south of the equator and had a warm and wet climate which had cooled down as a result of drifting away from the equator and made way for plant life to flourish. The dry plains of the north and west now accumulated shale, limestone and sedimentary rocks due to a decrease in Australia’s temperature.

Cretaceous period (144-65mya): During this period Australia separated from Gondwana but was still attached to Antarctica and was drifting south rapidly. North Australia experienced warm weather and South Australia experienced cool weather. Tasmania became covered by water due to sea levels rising and ice caps formed in Antarctica, Evidence of this can be found through the carbon dating of ice caps that can be dated back to the cretaceous period. Quaternary period (2.5mya-present): During this period Australia is isolated from other continents and has a hot and dry climate which renders most of central Australia uninhabitable. Northern Australia now has formed mountains as a result of tectonic plate collision and is drifting northwards slowly.

4. Choose an extinct Australian animal or plant from the fossil record. For your chosen fossil: * Indicate where the fossil was found

* Explain how changing environmental conditions may have led to its extinction Nimbadon: A Nimbadon was a large prehistoric tree dwelling marsupial, which is said to be an ancient relative of the modern day wombat. The Nimbadon lived in the rainforest canopies of Australia in groups. The Nimbadon was part of a large plant eating marsupial group that were referred to as diprotodontoids and was one of the most dominant plant eating groups of the time it lived which is said to be about 15 million years ago in the middle Miocene epoch period.

Nimbadon fossils were found at Riversleigh in the northwest of Queensland inside a cave name AL90. Riversleigh is a world heritage site and is a common place that many other types of fossils are also found. It is said that nimbadons became extinct about 12 million years ago as a result of climate change which resulted in losses of habitat for the nimbadons. Around 12 million years ago Australia was drifting north and this movement away from Antarctica and the South Pole resulted in drying of the Australian climate. Extinction for the nimbadons came as a result of loss of habitat and changes in Australian vegetation which was due to the drying Australian climate.

Timeline: Diagrams:

Changing environment on the Australian continent:

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