Specific examples from geographical distribution

Distribution of Glossopteris

Distribution of Glossopteris

The combination of continental drift and evolution can sometimes be used to predict what will be found in the fossil record. Glossopteris is an extinct species of seed fern plants from the Permian. Glossopteris appears in the fossil record around the beginning of the Permian on the ancient continent of Gondwana. Continental drift explains the current biogeography of the tree. Present day Glossopteris fossils are found in Permian strata in southeast South America, southeast Africa, all of Madagascar, northern India, all of Australia, all of New Zealand, and scattered on the southern and northern edges of Antarctica. During the Permian, these continents were connected as Gondwana (above) in agreement with magnetic striping, other fossil distributions, and glacial scratches pointing away from the temperate climate of the South Pole during the Permian.

Distribution of marsupials

The history of marsupials also provides an example of how the theories of evolution and continental drift can be combined to make predictions about what will be found in the fossil record. The earliest marsupial fossils are about 80 million years old and found in North America; by 40 million years ago fossils show that they could be found throughout South America, but there is no evidence of them in Australia, where they now predominate, until about 30 million years ago. The theory of evolution predicts that the Australian marsupials must be descended from the older ones found in the Americas. The theory of continental drift says that between 30 and 40 million years ago South America and Australia were still part of the Southern hemisphere super continent of Gondwana and that they were connected by land that is now part of Antarctica. Therefore combining the two theories scientists predicted that marsupials migrated from what is now South America across what is now Antarctica to what is now Australia between 40 and 30 million years ago. This hypothesis led paleontologists to Antarctica to look for marsupial fossils of the appropriate age. After years of searching they found, starting in 1982, fossils on Seymour Island off the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula of more than a dozen marsupial species that lived 35–40 million years ago.

Migration, isolation, and distribution of the Camel

The history of the camel provides an example of how fossil evidence can be used to reconstruct migration and subsequent evolution. The fossil record indicates that the evolution of camelids started in North America , from which, six million years ago, they migrated across the Bering Strait into Asia and then to Africa, and 3.5 million years ago through the Isthmus of Panama into South America. Once isolated, they evolved along their own lines, giving rise to the Bactrian camel and Dromedary in Asia and Africa and the llama and its relatives in South America. Camelids then went extinct in North America at the end of the last ice age.

distribution of the Camel


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