Timid Devils and Ghost Tigers

2004, Nature  -  52 min Leave a Comment
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The ancient Greeks deduced that in the Southern Hemisphere there must be enormous unexplored landmasses, a mysterious place full of gold, with an ideal climate and docile natives. Spanish and Portuguese explorers searched in vain for this lost continent which by this time everyone was calling "Terra Australis Incognita."

When the first white colonists arrived there they found a completely different world from the one they'd imagined. Covered in an impenetrable jungle and inhabited by strange creatures. A land forgotten by time, a world which had been left behind, lost in the mists of evolution, retaining much of the original life of the long since vanished super-continent Gondwana. Nothing was familiar to them but no one doubted that this was a land of natural splendors, an explosion of life from the depths of time.

This is a story of a land caught in its own bubble which was suddenly invaded by outsiders. Two of the creatures of this land were to suffer different but similar fates. Both would've become living or extinct legends. Tasmania is an island which lies to the south of the Australian continent from which it became definitively separated around 13 million years ago. This isolation occurred after thousands of years of shared evolution, meaning that Tasmania has to this day conserved relics of the primeval universal forest which once stretched right around the world some 250 million years ago.

At that time all dry land in the southern hemisphere formed an enormous compact mass - the super-continent called Gondwana. The proof of this can be found along the coasts which ripped apart from each other still preserve common geological features. Gondwana included the present lands of Australia, the Antarctic, Africa, South America and India. The breakup of the super-continent brought great changes. Titanic forces created new seas, moving continents and cooling the climate. Australia along with Tasmania had drifted east of the Antarctic. Despite the enormous distances now the edges reveal that these coasts and those of South America are parts of the same mass.