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The Evolution of Australian Biota

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The Evolution of Australian Biota Question 1: Wegener's Theory: During the 19th and early 20th Centuries, several geologists explored the idea that the continents may have and still are drifting across the Earth's surface. This hypothesis of continental drift was largely developed by German astronomer and meteorologist, Alfred L. Wegener. Wegener suggested that the Earths continents had at one time been joined in two super continents. In 1912 Wegener made the proposal that all the continents were previously one large continent, but then broke apart, and had drifted through the ocean floor to where they are now located. Apart from using the idea that continents fit together like a puzzle, Wegener also used fossil distribution, a similar sequence of rocks at numerous locations, and the apparent wandering of the Earth's polar regions to support his idea. With the help of Alfred L. Wegener's theory much of Australia's geological history can be explained. The puzzle like shape of the continents was one of the first pieces of evidence Wegener noted when exploring his theory of continental drift. Many of today's continents can be manoeuvred so they fit together into a large super continent. ...read more.


Figure A: Typical Proteaceae Grevillea Fauna species: The Australian Red Kangaroo The Australian Red Kangaroo is an example of an Australian species of fauna that has evolved over time to suit its environment. As the species has evolved certain characteristics have developed as a response to the animals arid and isolated environment. The Australian Red Kangaroo came into existence around 25 million years ago, about 10 million years after Australia split from Antarctica, and preferred rainforest type environments. As a result of Australia's split from Gondwana, about 100 million years ago and later Antarctica, the kangaroo evolved independently in an isolated environment, this is why kangaroo existence is solely limited to areas within Australia. This original kangaroo was tree dwelling and much smaller that today's kangaroos. These kangaroos had opposable digits to suit the trees in which they lived. As Australia became drier and woodlands slowly replaced rainforests around 15 million years ago, the kangaroo was forced to develop into a larger carnivorous animal living in open woodland environments. About 5 to 2 million years ago, Australia's arid areas increased, resulting in the extinction of some species of kangaroo that were unable to adapt to the climate change. ...read more.


This comparison can provide clues to scientists about the evolution of the animals diet, appearance and behaviour over time. Question 4: Adaptations of Australian Plants: Bird/Mammal Pollination: Plants that reproduce through this method include Grevillea and Banksia species. The flowers have features that attract birds and small mammals to the plant. These features include bright, vibrant, conspicuous, coloured flower petals. Some species are fragrant and nectar so that it will attach to the bird or mammal when they eat the nectar and then be passed onto another plant. Insect Pollination: Plants that pollinate this way include the Bottle Bush and others in the myrtaceae family. The flowers of these plants have usually inconspicuous flowers but are lightly scented and some contain nectar. The insects that pollinate the plants include the native and European Bee and other flying insects. These spread the pollen by flying from one plant to another dispersing pollen. Wind Pollination: The plants pollinate through this method include the Casuarina or Sheeoak. These plants use their anthers that are attached to long filaments that extend into the air the release pollen. These features allow the pollen to be easily blown away. These plants have no nectar or scent and have very small or no petals. The male plant has a feathery stigma to accept the pollen. ...read more.

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