Flinders Ranges, South AustraliaOrmiston Gorge, Northern TerritoryThe BubglebunglesGiekie Gorge, western AustraliaUrandangie, QueenslandSkolithos-fossil work tubes, Kalbarri Coast, Western australia

Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

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The Cretaceous Period 144 - 66.4 mya

During this period the fragmentation of Pangaea moved into high gear. Australia remained attached to Antarctica as the rest of the southern continents moved away, though the rifting was under way. Australia had a vast inland sea covering much of the continent. 110 myo monotremes found in Australia mark the earliest-known occurrence of mammals in Australia. 

As sea level rose, an inland sea formed through much of central Australia. At this time central and southern Queensland formed a group of islands in the shallow inland sea. The sediments deposited in this inland sea are the main source of the dinosaur fossils from this period. 

As Pangaea proceeded to break-up, the circulation of the oceans began to change. Up until this period the enormous size of the Pangaea landmass allowed the ocean currents to bring warm water as far south as the poles, which in turn, allowed life to flourish where there is now only ice. The life of the modern polar regions has adapted to the extreme cold of polar winters by either developing "extreme cold weather gear" such as thick layers of blubber, or learned to sleep through the winter in relatively protected places, like caves or underground.

Once the land masses of the southern continents had moved far enough away the Southern Ocean began to develop the circum polar circulation that it has today. Because there are no land masses blocking it, the ocean currents around Antarctica were allowed to circulate cold polar water continuously around the South Pole. This current prevents warmer water from the equator warming the air so it gradually grew colder until the vast glaciers formed.


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