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Episodes 2020; 43(1): 461-475

Published online March 1, 2020


Copyright © International Union of Geological Sciences.

Vertebrate evolution on the Indian raft - Biogeographic conundrums

Varun Parmar1, and G.V.R. Prasad2*

1Department of Geology, University of Jammu, Jammu – 180006, India; E-mail: varunparmarvp@gmail.com
2Department of Geology, Centre for Advanced Studies, University of Delhi, Delhi – 110007, India;

Correspondence to:E-mail: guntupalli.vrprasad@gmail.com

Received: September 9, 2019; Revised: October 28, 2019; Accepted: October 28, 2019

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The Indian plate has a long history of rifting, drifting and collision. It travelled for about 9000 km from its position within Gondwana to reach its present position within Asia. During its northward journey, the Indian landmass remained physically isolated for about 35 Ma from all other landmasses after its final break-up from Madagascar. A critical examination of the vertebrate fossil record of the Indian plate for the period of early and late drift phases offers very limited information for the early drift phase, but reveals a complex biogeographic history for the late drift phase. The fauna of late drift phase is represented by taxa of both Gondwanan and Laurasian affinities and some endemic forms that originated in the Indian subcontinent and later dispersed out of it. The close relationship between different Late Cretaceous vertebrate clades of the Indian subcontinent and Madagascar is explained through dispersal over a terrestrial route consisting Seychelles, Amirante Ridge, Providence Bank, and some microcontinental fragments. On the other hand, the presence of Laurasian taxa in the Late Cretaceous of the India is accounted by the island arcs and oceanic islands that existed to the north of Greater India in the Late Cretaceous. In other words, the Indian plate served as a ‘stepping stone’ between Madagascar and Laurasia.