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2.

THE CHANGES IN AUSTRALIAN FLORA AND FAUNA OVER


MILLIONS OF YEARS HAVE HAPPENED THROUGH EVOLUTION
2.1 DISCUSS EXAMPLES OF VARIATION BETWEEN MEMBERS OF A SPECIES
Species: two organisms that will reproduce naturally and produce fertile offspring are said to
be of the same species.
Variation: when members of the same species have different appearances, they are said to
have variation. Variation means a difference in physical appearance for some traits.
THEORY OF NATURAL SELECTION the environment selects favourable variations and
eliminates harmful ones. After many generations of selection, the characteristics of a
population may change and the population becomes adapted to the environment.
1. In any population there are variations
2. In any generation there are offspring that do not reach maturity and reproduce; the
characteristics of these organisms are removed from the population
3. Those organisms that survive and reproduce are well adapted and have favourable
variations (survival of the fittest)
4. Favourable variations are passed on to offspring; they become more and more common in
the population
Examples:
Humans hair colour, eye colour, skin colour, facial structure, height
Peafowl example of sexual dimorphism. The male peacock has a big, showy tail.
Ants different appearances based on their class (soldier, scout, queen, worker)
2.2 IDENTIFY THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN VARIATION WITHIN A SPECIES AND THE
CHANGES OF SURVIVAL OF SPECIES WHEN ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE OCCURS

Members of the same species need to have variations to ensure long-term survival of the
species.
If the environment of a species changes, and there is no variation, they may die if theyre
not suited to the new environment.
However some individuals may have different traits suitable for the new environment.
These members will survive and reproduce, and the suitable characteristics will be
common in the species. (Evolution by natural selection)
Species with no variation are much more likely to become extinct if there is an
environmental change, because none of them may have a characteristic suited to the new
environment.

2.3 IDENTIFY AND DESCRIBE EVIDENCE OF CHANGING ENVIRONMENTS IN


AUSTRALIA OVER MILLIONS OF YEARS
Australia undergoes physical and environmental changes, which have affected its flora and
fauna. Evidence of these changes can be found from studying the geography and geology of
Australia, and from the fossils found in rocks of various ages.
Geological and Geographical Evidence:
Black coal deposits are evidence of swampy environments and contain fossils of the plants
growing there
Sediments, soils and land structures are evidence of the great inland sea that broke
Australia into 4 large islands. This is supported by fossil evidence of marine animals that
have been found in outback Australia.
Studying rocks and landforms has revealed that sea levels have risen and fallen.
The flatness and lowering of the land surface to make Australia the flattest continent on
Earth is evidence of continual erosion over millions of years.

Volcanic rocks and landforms are evidence of volcanic activity that created extensive lava
flows around the east coast of Australia 35 million years ago.

Fossil Evidence:
Fossil evidence shows us the plants and animals in a particular place at a particular time.
As climate became warmer/drier in the Quarternary era, plant communities changed. E.g.
pollen found in the Wyrie swamp suggests that the earlier sediments supported eucalypt
forests and scrub plants. These were replaced with open woodland trees and grasses,
followed by Casuarina forests that are still present today.
Kangaroo fossils found in the Naracoorte caves show a great reduction in diversity and
numbers since environmental that reduced their habitats. The Naracoorte caves contain
fossils of thousands of animals, most of which are now extinct species.
2.4 IDENTIFY AREAS WITHIN AUSTRALIA THAT EXPERIENCE SIGNIFICANT VARIATION
IN TEMPERATURE AND WATER AVAILABILITY
Temperature:
Australia is a hot continent.
Inland, the temperature range is wide because the heat from the day is rapidly lost at
night.
Most of Australia has tropical or subtropical temperatures.
Temperature variation in Australian inland deserts and grasslands can be very great. Rapid
heating in the day can raise the temperature to over 40 degrees in summer, but rapid
cooling at night drops the temperature quickly. In winter, daytime temperature may be
over 20, but at night may drop to below freezing.
Water Availability:
Australia is the worlds driest continent.
Inland Australia and most of the west coast have a low, unreliable rainfall all seasons are
dry.
A common pattern over large areas is for droughts and erratic rainfall followed by floods
Along the east coast, rainfall occurs throughout the year.
Water availability is usually a problem over large areas of inland Australia. Many bodies of
water are temporary and the levels and flow of rivers and creeks are unpredictable. Floods
followed by drought are a common problem.
Aridity:
Lack of rainfall, combined with high temperatures means that much of inland Australia is
arid.
1/3 of Australia is desert.
Overall, Australias climatic pattern is one of increasing aridity moving inland from the
coast, and of increasing temperature from south to north.
2.4 IDENTIFY CHANGES IN THE DISTRIBUTION OF AUSTRALIAN SPECIES, AS
RAINFORESTS CONTRACTED AND SCLEROPHYLL COMMUNITIES AND GRASSLANDS
SPREAD, AS INDICATED BY FOSSIL EVIDENCE
Sclerophyll: hard leaves, refers to plants with tough, evergreen leaves such as eucalypts

As climatic conditions changed on the Australian continent, so did the Aus biota
Increasing heat and aridity favoured the plants and animals that could tolerate such
conditions. Those that could not became restricted in both distribution and abundance.
Rainforests contracted and all tall forests became restricted to the edge of the continent.
Sclerophyll communities and grasslands increased over time.
Divergent evolution (adaptive radiation) is the change in a species from its original from
to a different form adapted to different environments of ways of life.

Australias vegetation is dominated by two groups of flowering plants which have


successfully evolved to colonise a wide variety of habitats: acacias (wattles) and eucalypts.
Both groups have evolved forms that can survive hot, arid conditions.
When Aus became a separate continent, it contained three types of mammals
placentals, marsupials and monotremes. Placental mammals (except bats) died out while
marsupials diversified (as the climate became warmer and drier, they spread to occupy
many ecosytems).

2.6 DISCUSS CURRENT THEORIES THAT PROVIDE A MODEL TO ACCOUNT FOR THESE
CHANGES
Climate Change
As the weather warmed and conditions became drier, ecosystems changed and habitats
were lost. In Australia, climate wet from cold and dry to warm and dry as water became
scarce.
Evidence indicates that the contraction of rainforests and the rise of woodland/grasslands
was the result of increasing temperature and decline in water availability.
Riversleigh holds fossil evidence that demonstrates these changes.
Human impact
Human hunting possible cause for extinction of megafauna
Human use of fire
Arrival of Europeans agricultural methods and introduced species.
Result loss of Australian species, changes in Australian ecosystems.
2.7 DISCUSS DARWINS OBSERVATION OF AUSTRALIAN FLORA AND FAUNA AND
RELATE THESE TO HIS THEORY OF EVOLUTION