Impact of Continental Drift on Evolution

Topics: Continent, Pangaea, Plate tectonics Pages: 3 (907 words) Published: May 24, 2010
Continental drift has helped create the diversity we see present in modern day plants and animals. Through a process of speciation, the movement of the continents has had a generous role throughout evolution, effecting and distributing flora and fauna. The Earth’s continents were once one, a large supercontinent called Pangea that later separated into two smaller ones known as Gondwana and Laurasia. The separation and collision of continents has not only created some of the valleys and mountain ranges which are significant landmarks on the Earth’s surface, but it has also brought species together and apart again, consequently letting natural selection take over and lead to the animals we see today. “The timescale on which continents have drifted about is the same slow timescale on which animal lineages have evolved, and we cannot ignore continental drift if we are to understand the patterns of animal evolution on those continents.”[1]

The Process of Speciation

Although speciation could be seen as both a natural and a manmade phenomenon, in the case of continental drift it is a naturally occurring one. The process of speciation takes place when a group of animals of the same species find themselves isolated from one another.[2] There are many cases in which speciation can occur outside of continental drift, some examples are mountain ranges and large bodies of water. Continental drift mainly effects plant species and animal species that live in a wide range; the drifting of the continents broke up and separated species in such a way it was no longer possible for them to come in contact with one another. The non-contact relationship members of that species share with each other would eventually result in genetic isolation in which it would no longer be possible for those species to exchange genes and reproduce with each other. Therefore those now separate species would change themselves for natural selection so they can fit and adapt to their new...

Bibliography: 1. Dawkins, Richard. The Selfish Gene. Oxford University Press. 1976.
2. Van Nostrand’s Scientific Encyclopaedia. Volume 3 page 147
[1] Quote by Richard Dawkins.
[2] Definition courtesy of
[3] Refer to Figure A in appendix
[4] Refer to Figure B in appendix
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