Projection of modern Antarctica
|Area||7 million km2 (40 MyF)|
|Ecoregions||Northern temperate forest, northern coastline (45 MyF)|
Today, Antarctica is a frozen wasteland of ice and penguins. However, as the continent drifts further northeast, the ice in the northern half of the continent slowly melts away. By 45 MyF, Antarctica has drifted to what is now southern Australia. Changes in ocean currents as well as rafts of vegetation from Australia have allowed mammalian, avian and reptilian megafauna to migrate to Antarctica. As a result, Antarctica has become a battlefield between the mammals, birds and reptiles. Meanwhile, forests have returned to the continent and southern Antarctica is now a cold taiga forest and tundra with polar coasts while the northern half is temperate and warm.
Forty-Five Million Years LaterEdit
|Future of The World|
|This is a part of Future of The World: a collaborative project about our planet's future|
Northern Temperate ForestEdit
As Antarctica continues to drift northeast, the glaciers on the northern half of the continent slowly melt away and now have been replaced by temperate forest and grasslands. As a result, many more land animals are able to live here. These forests are also filled with nothofagus and fruit trees.
- Thanks to some changes in ocean currents on the east Australian coast due to continental drift, the saltwater crocodile was able to expand its range throughout the eastern coast of the island continent. Eventually, it managed to spread to multiple islands formed by the Pacific Ring of Fire and finally reach Antarctica as the once completely frozen continent drifted northeast around 35 MyF. In just 10 million years, the saltwater crocodile managed to evolve into five species. Some became terrestrial apex predators due to the lack of competition on Antarctica. One of these is the forest species of crusher crocodile, Gigacrocodylus horridus. This species is the second largest of the terrestrial saltwater crocodile descendants at 4.6 meters long and 1.7 meters tall and weighing about half a ton. It's also the dominant predator of the northern Antarctic forests thanks to a lack of competition. It feasts on large mammals, giant flightless birds and even young gubernators if normal prey is scarce. Its limbs are also directly under its body. This has allowed the crocs to gain the ability to switch between an ectothermic and endothermic metabolism depending on the situation. However, it is still too cold for these giant crocs to spread to the much colder southern half of the continent.
- Unlike other continents at this time, Antarctica is surprisingly scarce in squamates. However, there are exceptions. One of them is the medium-sized master tree dragon, Draconem arboris. It's descended from bearded dragons that got to Antarctica on rafts of vegetation. It has become much more arboreal and agile now and can hop from branch to branch to reach food. Like its ancestors, this mesopredator is omnivorous, eating fruits, insects and leaves. Although it also now eats eggs and small vertebrates. It also serves a role as a minor seed disperser for the spreading of fruit trees. However, they can become easy prey for crusher crocodiles when on the ground; they are also preyed on by large arboreal marsupials in the trees. Luckily, they now have sharp keratin spikes on their backs to use as a defense from large predators.
- While some descendants of the saltwater crocodile went onto the land, others kept their aquatic niches. Here in the colder climate of the Antarctic forest, these aquatic crocodilians became the Antarctic freshwater crocodile, Crocodylus antarcticum. Not to be confused with the Australian freshwater crocodile, this species of crocodile has changed very little from its saltwater ancestor, as a result, it's placed in the same genus. It has a very wide diet, ranging from Antarctic false deer to master tree dragons. Unlike its ancestor, these crocodiles now hibernate during the winter due to the colder climate of the Antarctic forests.
- When the brown rat arrived in Antarctica, it rapidly diversified into many niches and many new species thanks to the lack of competition. One of these is an herbivore similar to the Patagonian mara known as the Antarctic false deer, Arouraios elafia. Despite the name this is no deer but a large rodent, measuring at 2 meters long and 1.2 meters tall. This herbivore eats fruits, grass, leaves, flowers and seeds. It's also a favoured prey item for marsupial leopards, small gubernators and forest crusher crocs. These large rodents travel in family groups of up to a dozen individuals.
- Descendants of the brown rat also filled in carnivorous niches when they came to Antarctica. One of these is the northern killer rat, Carnivorattus formidabilis. These semi-arboreal, cougar-sized predators live in small packs of about ten individuals and also hunt Antarctic false deer, master tree dragons, small gubernators and even young crusher crocs if food is scarce.
- The cetaceans declined drastically after the Postocene thermal maximum. As a result, there's only one species of cetacean left by this time. This cetacean is the Antarctic dolphin, Delfini teliki. There are three subspecies of this dolphin, which are the freshwater forest species (Delfini teliki dasos), the northern coastal species (Delfini teliki teliki) and the southern coastal species (Delfini teliki meridionali). Like their ancestors, these dolphins live in pods and are carnivores. The diet of the Antarctic dolphin mostly consists of fish, crustaceans and other small sea creatures. Adult Antarctic dolphins have no natural predators, although freshwater crocodiles and will hunt young, sick, old and injured individuals.
Today, the northern coastline of Antarctica is just as cold as the southern coast is 45 MYF. However, when northern Antarctica reached the temperate zone, the glaciers that dominated the northern coast of Antarctica slowly vanished. Aquatic carnivorans also died out in northern Antarctica during the Postocene thermal maximum. As a result, other animals of several groups were quick to fill the niches left open. Meanwhile on the beach, small crocodilians, sea birds and other scavengers try to find anything they can scavenge, such as ocean animals that have been stranded onto the beach.
- There are several species of crusher crocs found on Antarctica. The northern Antarctic coastlines and islands have the Coastal crusher croc, Gigacrocodylus pygmaeo. These small crocodilians are no bigger than a medium-sized dog since there's not as much food as there is further inland. They scavenge anything they can find, from penguin carcasses to stranded new mosasaurs. They also eat eggs, seabirds, fish and crustaceans.
- While they are top predators in much of the world, the cold Antarctic climate makes new mosasaurs surprisingly scarce on the coastlines of the continent. One species that was able to adapt to these cold climates was the Antarctic gulfie, Aquavaranus antarcticus. This species has managed to adapt to the colder conditions of the Antarctic coasts by evolving a thick layer of skin similar to blubber which is 3 inches thick. These new mosasaurs hunt sharks, penguins and large fish.
- The most successful gubernators in Antarctica are easily the assurgodraconids. When many Antarctic seabirds died out in the Postocene thermal maximum, plenty of smaller species of gubernators filled in the ecological niches. However, one species of bird that was able to stand both the test of time and the arrival of the assurgodraconids is the kelp gull, Larus dominicanus. This species of seagull managed to survive for so long thanks to being very adaptable.
While some of northern Antarctica is temperate forest, collisions of multiple islands with Antarctica have created a mountain range that created a major rain block throughout central Antarctica. Here, many of the animals evolved from Australian visitors or Antarctic birds.
- Despite the arrival of the assurgodraconids to Antarctica, the skuas managed to survive by growing in size. So when grasslands colonized central Antarctica, the south polar skua evolved into the Antarctic strider bird, Diaskelizon fonias. These birds have a very similar lifestyle to that of a Secretary bird; and like the secretary bird, it feeds on many small animals including rodents, lizards, amphibians, eggs and freshwater fish. They'll also scavenge carcasses of larger animals and are actually very social birds. In fact, they'll team up in groups in order to drive off larger predators, such as crusher crocs and killer rats, away from carcasses.
- Just like in the Northeastern forests of Northeastern Antarctica, the grasslands found at the heart of the continent also has its species of crusher croc, the central crusher croc (Gigacrocodylus giganteus). This is the largest species of crusher croc and is a lighter color than its forest relative in order to help blend in with the grass. These crusher crocs hunt giant flightless birds, Antarctic false deer, huge lagomorphs and other large prey items. They mainly face competition from central killer rats.
- Just like the crusher crocs, killer rats also spread to central Antarctica, these evolved into the central killer rat. They haven't changed to much from their forest ancestors; except that they are now much larger now, around the size of a jaguar and are a lighter color to help blend in with the grass. However, they still hunt in packs of up to 16 individuals. Like central crusher crocs, central killer rats also hunt giant flightless birds, Antarctic false deer and other large prey items. Though they'll also hunt smaller mammals, reptiles, fish, eggs and amphibians if herbivorous megafauna is scare.