Extinction Of Australian Megafauna Essay

670 words - 3 pages

Throughout time Australia has withstood the many climatic and geological changes that have affected it's vegetation and native fauna.Australia has been isolated from other continents for 45 million years. This isolation resulted in many unique plants and animals evolving. Over this time Australia has changed from a green, forested land to one of the most arid vegetated landmasses on Earth. This change of climate is reflected in the fossil record.Fossil plants show that at the time Australia separated from Antarctica, much of the land was covered with broad-leaved forests, even Central Australia. Similar forests are found today in wet tropical regions of northeastern Australia and Papua New Guinea.As Australia moved northwards at 6 to 7 centimetres per year, weather conditions changed and the climate dried out. The centre of Australia became drier and plants living there either became extinct or had to adapt to the drier conditions. The vegetation in this region changed from forests to woodlands to scrublands and eventually to grasslands.Eucalypts evolved in Eastern Gondwana at least 60 million years ago, before Australia became isolated. As the climate dried out Eucalypts became the dominant type of tree in Australia.Mammals have lived in Australia for many millions of years. Australia's most distinctive mammals are marsupials, which carry their young in pouches, and monotremes (the platypus and echidna), which are the only mammals that lay eggs. Placental mammals, for example rats, bats and humans, migrated here much later.MarsupialsToday marsupials are found mainly in Australia, Papua New Guinea and South America and monotremes only live in Australia and Papua New Guinea.It is not known where marsupials originally evolved as their fossil record is quite poor. Some scientists think they originated in North America and reached Australia later via South America and Antarctica.Even before Australia split from Antarctica, its marsupials had begun to evolve into distinctively Australian groups, many of which are now extinct. These include extinct marsupial 'lions' and diprotodons, as well as living possums, koalas, bandicoots, wombats and kangaroosA group...

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