The Road to Gondwana: In Search of the Lost Supercontinent
Over billions of years, plate tectonics has widely changed the topography of planet Earth, so much so that Earth has had several continents and even a few supercontinents. Around 300 million years ago (during the Permian period) all of Earth’s land mass was concentrated in one supercontinent, Pangea, consisting of a northern part, Laurasia, and a southern part, Gondwana, surrounded by one enormous ocean. Over the next 150 million years, continental drift broke Pangea apart into several land masses, which spread to form the continents and positions we know today. Gondwana broke apart and spread, with portions now existing in South America, Africa, India, Australia, and Antarctica.
In The Road to Gondwana, author Morris traces these portions of Gondwana. In particular, the use of fossil and plant remains in following the journey the supercontinent took is discussed. Morris shows that parts of Gondwana still connect half the world, because those who live in Africa, South America, India, Australia, Arabia, Papua New Guinea, and New Zealand occupy what remains. But what was life like when Gondwana was whole? Morris claims a big clue is Glossopteris – a now extinct tree that dominated particularly the southern part of Gondwana for 50 million years, before vanishing. The mountains, deserts, and other landscapes that existed on Gondwana can still be found on the continents that it makes up, and the coal deposits formed from the ancient Glossopteris continue to be a major source of energy globally.
The break-up of Gondwana also had a profound effect on the global distribution of species. As the continents separated, the plants and animals that lived on them were also separated. This led to the development of separate ecosystems with the evolution of distinct species on each continent, so that today, the remains of Gondwana are scattered around the globe. This is what fascinates Morris.
Finally, Morris speculates that in some 250 million years’ time, based on how the tectonic plates are moving, a new supercontinent (possibly called Amasia) will be centred around the North Pole. The book contains a partial glossary and a wide set of end notes for each chapter, but a very good library would be needed for follow up. In summary, Morris has produced an original view of how Gondwana came and went yet still leaves its trace. It is not a textbook but could be entertaining for someone interested in the existence of Gondwana.
Reviewed by Richard Dawe
BY: Bill Morris (2022). Exisle Publishing. 272 pp. hbk.
PRICE: £19.99 https://exislepublishing.com