About 200-300 million years, it is believed that all the land on earth were joined together as one big mass of land. This one single continent was called the Pangea (which means ''all lands'' in Greek) supercontinent. From Pangea, two smaller land masses began to split off, and these were Laurasia and Gondwana. Today's continents that were a part of Gondwana include Australia, Antarctica, South America, Africa, and the regions of the Arabian Peninsula and the Indian subcontinent. which have now moved entirely into the Northern Hemisphere.

The break up of Gondwana occurred in the early Jurassic period (about 184 million years ago) with massive eruptions of lava. The region of East Gondwana began to separate away. These were the land masses of Antarctica, Madagascar, India, and Australia, which separated from Africa. South America began to drift slowly west away from Africa as the South Atlantic Ocean formed, occurring about 130 million years ago during the Early Cretaceous.


geomaps.wr.usgs.gov/parks/animate/A08.gif

How do we know that these lands were once joined?
There are many techniques that scientists use to determine this. One way is through identifying the same or similar plants/land animals that exist in different continents. These give us some proof that the continents were joined. Another method is to study rocks which when formed at any given time, freeze at a local magnetic field. The earth has a magnetic field with the North and South poles, and when rocks form as the continents drift apart, the distances from the magnetic poles can provide information.

When did Australia break away from Gondwana?
Australia separated from Gondwana 100 million years ago, and initially remained warm and humid with rainforest vegetation. Inland Australia had systems of rivers and lakes with abundant wildlife. Fossil birds, platypus, frogs and snakes are present from this period.

Facts

  • Gondwana is also commonly referred to as Gondwanaland
  • The adjective term is Gondwanan, e.g. “The land consisted of Gondwanan organisms”
  • The continent of Gondwana was named by Austrian scientist Eduard Suess, after the Gondwana region of central northern India

Questions and Answers

  1. When the land on earth was joined together as one big mass of land, what was it called?
    Pangea
  2. What two land masses were first split off called?
    Laurasia, and Gondwana
  3. When did Gondwana break up?
    Gondwana was an ancient supercontinent that broke up about 180 million years ago.
  4. What land masses of today made up Gondwana?
    The continent eventually split into landmasses we recognize today: Africa, South America, Australia, Antarctica, the Indian subcontinent and the Arabian Peninsula.
  5. Which present day continent was not part of Pangaea?
    The northern one, Laurasia, included what are today the continents ofEurope, Asia, and North America. The other, Gondwana, was formed from the southern landmasses of present-day Africa, South America,Australia, India, Antarctica, and Madagascar.