Gondwana Explained

Gondwana
Formation Year:200 Mya
Type:Geological supercontinent
Today:Africa
South America
Australia
India
Arabia
Antarctica
Balkans
Smaller Continents:Atlantica
India
Australia
Antarctica
Zealandia
Plate:African Plate
Antarctic Plate
Indo-Australian Plate
South American Plate

In paleogeography, Gondwana,[1] [2] originally Gondwanaland, was the southernmost of two supercontinents (the other being Laurasia) that later became parts of the Pangaea supercontinent. It existed from approximately 510 to 180 million years ago (Mya). Gondwana is believed to have sutured between ca. 570 and 510 Mya, thus joining East Gondwana to West Gondwana.[3] It separated from Laurasia 200-180 Mya (the mid Mesozoic era) during the breakup of Pangaea, drifting further south after the split.[4]

Gondwana included most of the landmasses in today's Southern Hemisphere, including Antarctica, South America, Africa, Madagascar and the Australian continent, as well as the Arabian Peninsula and the Indian subcontinent, which have now moved entirely into the Northern Hemisphere.

The continent of Gondwana was named by Austrian scientist, Eduard Suess, after the Gondwana region of central northern India (from Sanskrit gondavana "forest of the Gonds"), from which the Gondwana sedimentary sequences (Permian-Triassic) are also described.

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 Proteaceae, a family of plants known only from southern South America, South Africa and Australia, are considered to have a "Gondwanan distribution". This pattern is often considered to indicate an archaic, or relict, lineage.

Formation

The assembly of Gondwana was a protracted process. Several orogenies led to its final amalgamation 550–500 Mya at the end of the Ediacaran, and into the Cambrian.[3] These include the Brasiliano Orogeny, the East African Orogeny, the Malagasy Orogeny, and the Kuunga Orogeny. The final stages of Gondwana assembly overlapped with the opening of the Iapetus Ocean between Laurentia and western Gondwana. During this interval the Cambrian explosion occurred.

Gondwana was formed by these earlier continents and microcontinents, and others, colliding in these orogenies:

One of the major sites of Gondwana amalgamation was the East African Orogen (Stern, 1994), where these two major orogenies are superimposed on each other:

The East African Orogeny (as later defined) at ~650–630 Mya affected a large part of Arabia, north-eastern Africa, East Africa and Madagascar. Collins and Windley (2002) propose that in this orogeny Azania collided with the CongoTanzania–Bangweulu Block.[8]

The later Malagasy orogeny at ~550–515 Mya affected Madagascar, eastern East Africa and southern India. In it Neoproterozoic India collided with the already combined Azania and Congo–Tanzania–Bangweulu Block, suturing along the Mozambique Belt.[9]

At the same time, in the Kuunga Orogeny Neoproterozoic India collided with the Australia/Mawson continent.

Pangaea

Other large continental masses, including the cores of North America (Canadian Shield or Laurentia), Europe (Baltica), and Siberia were added over time to form the supercontinent Pangaea by Permian time. When Pangea broke up (mostly during the Jurassic), two large masses, Gondwana and Laurasia, were formed.

When Pangaea broke up, the re-formed Gondwana continent was not precisely the same as before Pangaea formed; for example, most of Florida and southern Georgia and Alabama are underlain by rocks that were originally part of Gondwana but that were left attached to North America when Pangea broke apart.

Climate

During the late Paleozoic, Gondwana extended from a point at or near the south pole to near the equator. Across much of Gondwana, the climate was mild. During the Mesozoic, the world was on average considerably warmer than today. Gondwana was then host to a huge variety of flora and fauna for many millions of years. 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, it grows in Australia, New Caledonia and New Zealand. New Caledonia and New Zealand ecoregion are separated by continental drift from Australia 85 million years ago. The islands still retain plants and animal that originated in Gondwana and spread to the southern hemisphere continents later.But there is strong evidence of glaciation during Carboniferous to Permian time, especially in South Africa.

Breakup

Mesozoic

Gondwana began to break up in the early-Jurassic (about 184 Mya) accompanied by massive eruptions of basalt lava, as East Gondwana, comprising Antarctica, Madagascar, India and Australia, began to separate from Africa. South America began to drift slowly westward from Africa as the South Atlantic Ocean opened, beginning about 130 Mya during the Early Cretaceous, and resulting in open marine conditions by 110 Mya. East Gondwana then began to separate about 120 Mya when India began to move northward.

The Madagascar block, and a narrow remnant microcontinent presently occupied by the Seychelles Islands, were broken off India; elements of this breakup nearly coincide with the Cretaceous–Tertiary 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.

Australia began to separate from Antarctica perhaps 80 Mya (Late Cretaceous), but sea-floor spreading between them became most active about 40 Mya during the Eocene epoch of the Paleogene Period.

New Zealand probably separated from Antarctica between 130 and 85 Mya.

Cenozoic

As the age of mammals went underway, the continent of Australia-New Guinea began gradually to separate and move north (55 Mya), rotating about its axis to begin with, and thus retaining some connection with the remainder of Gondwana for about 10 million years.

About 45 Mya, the Indian Plate collided with Asia, buckling the crust and forming the Himalayas. At about the same time, the southernmost part of Australia (modern Tasmania) finally separated from Antarctica, letting ocean currents flow between the two continents for the first time. Antarctica became cooler and Australia became drier because ocean currents circling Antarctica were no longer directed around northern Australia into the subtropics.

The separation of South America from West Antarctica some time during the Oligocene, perhaps 30 Mya also caused climate changes. Immediately before this, South America and East Antarctica were not connected directly, but the many microplates of the Antarctic Peninsula remained near southern South America acting as "stepping stones" allowing continued biological interchange and stopped oceanic current circulation. But when the Drake Passage opened, there was now no barrier to force the cold waters of the Southern Ocean north, to be exchanged with warmer tropical water. Instead, a cold circumpolar current developed and Antarctica became what it is today: a frigid continent that locks up much of the world's fresh water as ice. Sea temperatures dropped by almost 10°C, and the global climate became much colder.

By about 15 Mya, the collision between New Guinea (on the leading edge of the Australian Plate) and the southwestern part of the Pacific Plate pushed up the New Guinea highlands, causing a rain shadow effect which drastically changed weather patterns in Australia, drying it out.

Later, South America was connected to North America via the Isthmus of Panama, cutting off a circulation of warm water and thereby creating the Arctic, as well as allowing the Great American Faunal Interchange.

The Red Sea and East African Rift are modern examples of the continuing dismemberment of Gondwana.

See also

References

Further reading

External links

Notes and References

  1. Web site: gondwana. Dictionary.com. Lexico Publishing Group. 2010-01-18.
  2. Web site: Gondwanaland. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2010-01-18.
  3. Paper No. 207-8 - Linking Subduction Initiation, Accretionary Orogenesis And Supercontinent Assembly. Buchan. Craig. November 7–10, 2004. 2004 Denver Annual Meeting. Geological Society of America. 2010-01-18.
  4. Web site: Houseman. Greg. Dispersal of Gondwanaland. University of Leeds. 21 Oct 2008.
  5. The Assembly of Southern South America in the Late Proterozoic and Paleozoic: Some Paleomagnetic Clues. Rapalini. AE. 2001. Spring Meeting 2001. American Geophysical Union. 2010-01-18.
  6. Rapalini. AE. Syntectonic magnetization of the mid-Palaeozoic Sierra Grande Formation: further constraints on the tectonic evolution of Patagonia. 1998. 155. 1. Journal of the Geological Society. pp. 105–114. 10.1144/gsjgs.155.1.0105.
  7. http://sp.lyellcollection.org/content/142/1/219.abstract Laurentia-Gondwana collision: the origin of the Famatinian-Appalachian Orogenic Belt (a review)
  8. Collins. Alan S. Windley. Brian F. The Tectonic Evolution of Central and Northern Madagascar and Its Place in the Final Assembly of Gondwana. 2002. May. The Journal of Geology. 110. 3. pp. 325–339. 10.1086/339535.
  9. Book: harv. Proterozoic East Gondwana: supercontinent assembly and breakup. A review of the evolution of the Mozambique Belt and implications for the amalgamation and dispersal of Rodinia and Gondwana. 417-418. G.H.. Grantham. M.. Maboko. B.M.. Eglington. Geological Society. 2003. 1862391254.