Where Are Glossopteris Fossils Found?

glossopteris-fossils-found Credit: James St. John/Flickr/CC-BY-2.0

Glossopteris fossils are found throughout India, South America, southern Africa, Australia and Antarctica. They are a key piece of evidence for the theory of a southern supercontinent and continental drift. Assembling the continents of the southern hemisphere into a single land mass shows a linear, continuous distribution pattern of Glossopteris across continental boundaries. Edward Seuss was the geologist who theorized the existence of a southern supercontinent, which he called Gondwanaland.

Glossopteris was a woody, seed-bearing shrub or tree that was dominant throughout the Early Permian period. It had tongue-shaped leaves and could reach as high as 30 meters. It was the dominant species throughout the period, finally becoming extinct at the end of the Permian period.

The theory of continental drift was first proposed by Alfred Wegener in 1915. He theorized that Earth's crust floats above a liquid core and that at one time, all the land masses were joined into one supercontinent he called Pangaea. This land mass broke into two smaller supercontinents, Laurasia and Gondwanaland, during the Jurassic period. It was not until 1960 that the theory of plate tectonics was developed, explaining the movement of Earth's plates and the cause of earthquakes, volcanoes and other geological events.