Lands of Australia, Patagonia, South America, Antarctica, New
New Guinea, India, and Africa were once united in Gondwanaland
A typical Beech forest of Tierra Del Fuego
The peace and tranquility is astounding.
The very same Nothafagus pumilio forests are found in New Zealand.
Nothfagus forests dominate both sides of the Patagonian Andes.
Patagonia has ten species of Nothofagus, seven are deciduous.
In Darwin's day, however, there was no explanation for how terrestrial
species like beech could have colonised lands separated by vast oceans.
Because beech nuts are not eaten by birds, and their seeds don't
survive in salt water, how could Nothofagus have spread?
Not until over a century later did geologists come up
with a plausible answer, when they proposed the lands
of Australia, South America, Antarctica, New Zealand,
New Guinea, India, and Africa were once united in a
super-continent which they named Gondwanaland.
Over millions of years Gondwanaland, by means of plate
tectonics and continental drift, cleaved into the landmasses
Today the cold-adapted beech forests reach their greatest extent in New
Zealand and Patagonian South America,
with sizeable forests in Tasmania, and smaller ones in New Guinea, New Caledonia,
and southeast Australia.
At the time of Gondwanaland's break-up, however, the beech forests did not
prevail over the conifer forests.
The ancient forests were then dominated by podocarps, such as the ancestors
of kahikatea, rimu and miro in
New Zealand, along with ancestral kauri and araucaria, such as the monkey
puzzle trees in Chile.
The understoreys consisted of tall treeferns and luxuriant mosses.
Gradually, the beech forests expanded and began to take over some of the
while in other places mixed forests formed. As Gondwanaland fractured further,
forests became isolated - leading to the evolution of different species
of Nothofagus on the
different landmasses. Ice began to envelop Antarctica as it drifted south,
and glaciers eventually
overwhelmed the beech forests there until they were gone.
There are only 3 kinds of trees in Tierra Del Fuego:
Canelo, and 2 kinds of Beech;
Nothafagus antarctica and Nothafagus pumillus
Califate, an edible berry that is ripe in February.
There is a legend that if one eats this fruit, they will return to Tierra
Some mushrooms we found in Puerto Williams during Summer
(Note sunglasses to get an idea of their size)
Patagonian Animals and Birds