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The Mesozoic plate tectonic and paleogeographic history of Gondwana had a profound effect on the distribution of terrestrial vertebrates. As the supercontinent fragmented into a series of large landmasses (South America, Africa-Arabia, Antarctica, Australia, New Zealand, the Indian subcontinent, and Madagascar), particularly during the Late Jurassic and Cretaceous, its terrestrial vertebrates became progressively isolated, evolving into unique faunal assemblages. We focus on four clades that, during the Mesozoic, had relatively low ability for dispersal across oceanic barriers--crocodyliforms, sauropod dinosaurs, nonavian theropod dinosaurs, and mammals. Their distributions reveal patterns that are critically important in evaluating various biogeographic hypotheses, several of which have been informed by recent discoveries from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar. We also examine the effects of lingering, intermittent connections, or reconnections, of Gondwanan landmasses with Laurasia (through the Caribbean, Mediterranean, and Himalayan regions) on the distributions of different clades.
This article reviews the biogeographic history of terrestrial vertebrates from the Mesozoic of the southern supercontinent Gondwana.
Relatively large, terrestrial animalsâincluding crocodyliforms, sauropod and nonavian theropod dinosaurs, and mammalsâare the focus of this review.
Most patterns related to vicariance occurred during the Late Jurassic and Cretaceous, the intervals of most active Gondwanan fragmentation.
Recent discoveries of vertebrates from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar have played a key role in formulating and testing various biogeographic hypotheses.