The Great South Land: Gondwanan Floras of the Antarctic Fossil Record

The 2018 Howitt Lecture

A Joint Presentation with the Geological Society of Australia Victoria Division

Professor David Cantrill

Executive Director of Science, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria
Chair, Geological Society of Australia Victoria Division

Today Antarctica is one of the most inhospitable terrestrial environments in the world, with a handful of plant species adapted to survive its harsh conditions. However, our southernmost continent once lay at the heart of the supercontinent Gondwana, and played an important role in the expansion and contraction of flora across the planet’s southern continents.

Modern molecular methods enable us to understand the development of current-day patterns of biodiversity, but rely on the presence of living species to analyse. The lack of current-day Antarctic biodiversity has precluded the inclusion of this region in these types of studies, making the fossil record an important tool. This talk explores the discovery of new fossil floras and the implications these have for Southern Hemisphere biogeography.

About the Speaker:

Professor David Cantrill is the Executive Director of Science at the Royal Botantic Gardens Victoria (RBGV), and the Chair of the Geological Society of Australia’s Victoria Division. At RBGV Davis is responsible for managing and leading the Plant Science and Biodiversity Division, with further responsibility for the State Botanical Collection, comprising the 1.5M specimens in the herbarium and the rare books and artwork in the Library.

His research focus has been the history of Antarctic vegetation and, in particular, the role that Antarctica has played in developing present day patterns of plant distribution in the Southern Hemisphere. David has worked extensively in the Antarctic and more recently in South Africa and New Zealan, concentrating on fossil floras from the Cretaceous and early Cenozoic eras.