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Gondwana, Gondwanaland Gondwana is the Late Proterozoic-Late Paleozoic supercontinent of the Southern Hemisphere, named by British/Austrian geologist Eduard Suess after the Gondwana System of southern India. The name Gondwana means "land of the Gonds" (an ancient tribe in southern India), so the more common rendition of the name Gondwanaland for the southern supercontinent is technically improper, meaning "land of the land of the Gonds." The supercontinent includes the present continents and continental fragments of Africa,
South America, Australia, Arabia, India, Antarctica, and many smaller fragments. Most of these continental masses amalgamated in the latest Precambrian during closure of the Mozambique Ocean and several other oceans, seas, and basins. It persisted as a supercontinent until they joined with the northern continents in the Carboniferous to form the supercontinent Pangaea.
Geologists have matched the different fragments of Gondwana with others using alignment between belts of similar-aged deformation, metamorphism, and mineralization, as well as common faunal, floral, and paleoclimatic belts. The formation and breakup of Gondwana is associated with one of the most remarkable explosions of new life-forms in the history of the planet, the change from simple, single-celled organisms and soft-bodied fauna to complex, multicelled organisms. The formation and dispersal of supercontinents strongly influences global climate and the availability of different environmental niches for biological development, linking plate tectonic and biological processes.
Since the early 1990s a consensus has emerged that Gondwana formed near the end of the Neo-proterozoic from the fragmented pieces of an older supercontinent, Rodinia, itself assembled near the end of the Grenville cycle (~1,100 Ma). The now standard model of Gondwana's assembly begins with the separation of East Gondwana (Australia, Antarctica, India, and Madagascar) from the western margin of Laurentia, and the fanlike aggregation of East and West Gondwana. The proposed assembly closed several ocean basins, including the very large
Glossopteris leaf fossil from Permian period found in Coohah, New South Wales, Australia. Glossopteris is one of the diagnostic flora used by Alfred Wegener and others to match paleoclimate and paleobiological zones across the southern continents, to re-create the former positions of these continents in the proposed supercontinent of Gondwana. (Martin Land/Photo Researchers, Inc.)
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