A Lecture on Madagascar’s Mammals: The Great Voyage

a lecture on madagascar's mammals: the great voyage

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The Royal Geographical Society- Hong Kong is delighted to welcome Dr. Jason Ali to lecture on “Madagascar’s Mammals: The Great Voyage” on Wednesday, September 15, 7:30 p.m., at the Pacific Place Conference Centre, One Pacific Place, Admiralty.

Famous for its lemurs and chameleons, Madagascar hosts one of the planet’s most unique animal assemblages, with more than 80% of the island’s species endemic. How these unusual animals got to Madagascar has mystified scientists for centuries. In this lecture, Dr. Ali tells the story of his research which most believe has solved this conundrum.

As part of the ancient East Gondwana, the territory now Madagascar, split from Africa with the Indian subcontinent approximately 160 million years ago. Then, the island of Madagascar was formed when it separated from the Indian subcontinent 80 to 100 million years ago. Thus, how the island’s mammals, reptiles and amphibians got to Madagascar, which must have been after the global mass extinction event of 65 million years ago, has intrigued natural historian for well over two centuries.

The co-discoverer of evolution, Alfred Wallace, spent many pages discussing the issue in both The Geographical Distribution of Animals (1876) and Island Life (1881).

In 2010, Dr Ali published a paper in Nature arguing that the animals very likely floated to the island on uprooted trees or vegetation mats that had washed off eastern Africa. The analysis complemented evidence from several diverse sources including molecular systematics, the fossil record and palaeogeography.  It appeared to confirm a hypothesis proposed in 1940 by renowned paleontologist and evolutionary theorist, George Simpson.

In this talk, Dr Ali explains the key elements of the study, including why the animals could not have walked or “island-hopped” to Madagascar, which were previous popular theories.  He also explains why the crossings, which took about 30 days, were done in a time window spanning 20-60 million years ago.  In addition, Dr Ali explains why it has effectively been impossible for Africa-Madagascar over-water migrations to have taken place since 15-20 million years ago, which has allowed such unique species on the island.

Dr Ali is a Professor in the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Hong Kong.   He is an expert on Structural Geology and Regional Tectonic Evolution.  His present research is focused on the India-Asia collision system, Paleobiogeography research and how land animals have colonised new frontiers.  Dr Ali has some 130 learned papers in print.  Dr Ali has delivered hundreds of lectures worldwide, including at several seminal conferences.

Members and their guests are most welcome to attend this lecture, which is HK$100 for Members and HK$150 for guests and others.

For more information regarding this event you may send an email to events@rgshk.org.hk or call (852) 2583-9700

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