The Eocene Epoch (55-38 million years ago)
By the beginning of the Eocene, Gondwana had almost split apart, but Australia, Antarctica and South America remained joined. The Antarctic portion of Gondwana straddled the South Pole but because the global climate was warmer it was free of ice and snow. A forested corridor linked Australia and South America.
Australia's Eocene facts
- Australia, Antarctica and South America remained linked together as the last remnants of Gondwana.
- The Australian part of Gondwana remained close to the South Pole.
- Australia had a wet, warm climate.
- Australia was connected to Antarctica only via Tasmania. Along the rest of Australia's southern margin, a wide, sunken rift valley had developed between Australia and Antarctica as they began to tear apart.
- Over much of Australia broad-leaved rainforests were replacing earlier conifer forests. Southern Beech Trees were characteristic of these forests.
- In Australia (and in the rest of the world) dinosaurs, giant marine reptiles and flying reptiles had all disappeared.
- Land animals such as frogs, horned turtles, flightless birds, snakes and mammals (monotremes, marsupials and placentals) moved throughout the Gondwanan forests.
What was happening in the rest of the world
- In the early Eocene, North America, Africa, Europe and Asia had warm wet climates. New types of forests began to appear, creating new homes for a rich array of plants and animals.
- Placental mammals were rapidly adapting to fill forests, oceans and the night skies.