The Indian subcontinent had a dynamic geographic and geologic history that is important to understanding major events in Earth history, including the extinction of dinosaurs, the uplift of the Himalayas, and the origin, evolution, and dispersal of major groups of land-based backboned animals. India was originally a southern landmass, interlocked with Australia, Africa, Antarctica, and other Gondwanan landmasses until the middle of the dinosaur era. Some 150 million years ago, India began its northern migration partially in isolation, across the equator to contact Asia around 50 million years ago.
Two profound events shaped India's biota during this northward journey: a lengthy interval of geographic isolation and the aftereffects of the outpouring of the Deccan Trap flood basalts. Geographic isolation of large landmasses tends to produce dramatic examples of endemic floras and faunas such as those of Madagascar and Australia—what were the effects on the Indian biota? The outpouring of the Deccan Trap flood basalts, whose after-effects may have led to climate change and acid rain, may have been important in destabilizing ecosystems in the run-up to the extinction of dinosaurs at the end of the Mesozoic. Wilkinson will give some examples of recent biodiversity research in South Asia. Beyond the biology per se, he will also highlight and discuss obstacles to biodiversity research in South Asia from a historical perspective. Wilkinson suggests that, at least in some areas, there are strong indications of substantial advances in science quality associated with the maturation of a new generation of biodiversity scientists.
Jeff Wilson is an Associate Curator in the Museum of Paleontology and and Associate Professor in the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences at the University of Michigan. His research focuses on the evolution of long-necked dinosaurs, on the vertebrate paleontology of the Indian Subcontinent, and on fossil tracks and trackways. Jeff's conducts field work in India and Jordan.
Jeffrey Wilson, U-M