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 and sometimes separated disparate landmasses; 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 biota 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 history of life on this ancient continent has preoccupied scientists for more than a century, though only in the past three decades have details of the birth of that supercontinent, of its existence, and of its death 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, which is 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 fishes to advanced mammals and birds. It explains in detail how the vertebrate faunas of each of the Gondwana continents developed to the present day, and it investigates how the shifting continental plates and changing climates have shaped the path of vertebrate evolution.
Lavishly illustrated with hundreds of color 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 a new Afterword, which includes information on the latest discoveries, plus many new photographs. Both the Bibliography and the Systematic, Geographic and Geologic Index have been revised and updated, and a number of illustrations in the original edition have been corrected or replaced.