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(Geological Science) one of the two ancient supercontinents produced by the first split of the even larger supercontinent Pangaea about 200 million years ago, comprising chiefly what are now Africa, South America, Australia, Antarctica, and the Indian subcontinent
[C19: from Gondwana region in central north India, where the rock series was originally found]
A supercontinent of the Southern Hemisphere comprising the landmasses that currently correspond to India, Australia, Antarctica, and South America. According to the theory of plate tectonics, Gondwanaland formed at the end of the Precambrian Eon and broke up in the middle of the Mesozoic Era. Compare Laurasia.
Did You Know? Sometimes a suggested solution to a scientific problem can raise more questions than it answers. So it was with Austrian geologist Eduard Suess's hypothesis explaining why identical groups of fossil plants occur in India, South America, southern Africa, Australia, and Antarctica. These plants, known as the Glossopteris flora, had seeds that were too large to have blown across wide oceans. In 1885 Suess proposed that the plant fossils were common to all of the landmasses because the landmasses were actually connected when the plants first developed, eventually breaking apart into separate continents. Suess named this huge landmass Gondwanaland, after a region of central India called Gondwana. Few believed Suess's idea because most people could not see what would cause such a giant supercontinent to break apart. In the early 1900s, Alfred Wegener, a German meteorologist, noticed other kinds of evidence for Gondwanaland, including similarities in animal fossils, rock types, and marks left by glaciers across the continents of the Southern Hemisphere. Wegener used this evidence to propose the idea of continental drift, which says that the continents are always moving toward or away from one another. But it wasn't until the 1960s that Wegener's ideas or the concept of Gondwanaland were finally accepted, when the theory of plate tectonics was put forward to explain how the internal workings of the Earth could cause continents to move about.