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Australasia, a region of Oceania, comprises Australia, New Zealand, neighbouring islands in the Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
and, sometimes, the island of New Guinea
New Guinea
(which is usually considered to be part of Melanesia). Charles de Brosses
Charles de Brosses
coined the term (as French Australasie) in Histoire des navigations aux terres australes[1] (1756). He derived it from the Latin
Latin
for "south of Asia" and differentiated the area from Polynesia (to the east) and the southeast Pacific (Magellanica).[2] The bulk of Australasia
Australasia
sits on the Indo-Australian Plate, together with India.

Contents

1 Physical geography 2 Human geography 3 Ecological geography 4 See also 5 Notes 6 References 7 External links

Physical geography[edit]

Australasia

Physiographically, Australasia
Australasia
includes New Zealand, Australia (including Tasmania), and Melanesia: Papua New Guinea
New Guinea
and neighbouring islands north and east of Australia
Australia
in the Pacific Ocean. The designation is sometimes applied to all the lands and islands of the Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
lying between the equator and latitude 47° south. Papua New Guinea
New Guinea
also includes approximately 600 offshore islands. Most of Australasia
Australasia
lies on the southern portion of the Indo-Australian Plate, flanked by the Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
to the west and the Southern Ocean
Southern Ocean
to the south. Peripheral territories lie on the Eurasian Plate
Eurasian Plate
to the northwest, the Philippine Plate
Philippine Plate
to the north, and in the Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
– including numerous marginal seas – atop the Pacific Plate
Pacific Plate
to the north and east. Human geography[edit] Geopolitically, Australasia
Australasia
sometimes refers to Australia
Australia
and New Zealand together – in the absence of another word limited to those two countries; however, the two countries are sometimes referred to collectively as the Antipodes. Sometimes the term also encompasses the island of New Guinea
New Guinea
(Papua New Guinea
New Guinea
and the Indonesian part of the island). Many organisations whose names include the prefix "[Royal] Australasian Society of ..." limit their scope of operation to just Australia
Australia
and New Zealand.

The 1908–12 Australasian Olympic Flag

In the past, Australasia
Australasia
has been used as a name for combined Australia/ New Zealand
New Zealand
sporting teams. Examples include tennis between 1905 and 1915, when New Zealand
New Zealand
and Australia
Australia
combined to compete in the Davis Cup
Davis Cup
international tournament, and at the Olympic Games of 1908 and 1912. Anthropologists, although disagreeing on details, generally support theories that call for a Southeastern Asian origin of indigenous island peoples in Australasia
Australasia
and neighboring subregions. The first human habitation of Australia
Australia
is estimated to have occurred 50,000 or more years ago. These first Australians were the ancestors of the Aboriginal Australians, who form the majority of today's indigenous Australians. They were mostly hunter-gatherers and arrived via land bridges and short sea-crossings from present-day Southeast Asia. Ecological geography[edit] Main article: Australasia
Australasia
ecozone

Wallace Line
Wallace Line
separates Australasian and Southeast Asian fauna.

Lake Pukaki
Lake Pukaki
looking to the Southern Alps
Southern Alps
of New Zealand

From an ecological perspective the Australasia ecozone
Australasia ecozone
forms a distinct region with a common geologic and evolutionary history and a great many unique flora and fauna. In this context, Australasia
Australasia
is limited to Australia, New Guinea, New Zealand, New Caledonia, and neighbouring islands, including the Indonesian islands from Lombok
Lombok
and Sulawesi
Sulawesi
eastward. The Wallace Line
Wallace Line
marks the biological divide from the Indomalaya ecozone
Indomalaya ecozone
of tropical Asia
Asia
Borneo
Borneo
and Bali
Bali
lie on the western, Asian side. Australia, New Zealand
New Zealand
and New Caledonia
New Caledonia
are all fragments of the ancient supercontinent Gondwana, the marks of which are still visible in the Christmas Island
Island
Seamount Province and other geophysical entities. These three land masses have been separated from other continents, and from one another, for millions of years. All of Australasia
Australasia
shares the Antarctic
Antarctic
flora, although the northern, tropical islands also share many plants with Southeast Asia. Mainland Australia, New Guinea
New Guinea
and Tasmania
Tasmania
are separated from one another by shallow continental shelves, and were linked together when the sea level was lower during the Ice Ages. They share a similar fauna which includes marsupial and monotreme mammals and ratite birds. Eucalypts are the predominant trees in much of Australia
Australia
and New Guinea. New Zealand
New Zealand
has no extant native land mammals aside from bats (though it once did), but also had ratite birds, including the kiwi and the extinct moa. The Australasia ecozone
Australasia ecozone
includes some nearby island groups, like Wallacea, the Bismarck Archipelago, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu, which were not formerly part of Gondwana, but which share many characteristic plants and animals with Australasia. The Australasian ecozone
Australasian ecozone
is an ecological region that is coincident, but not synonymous (by some definitions), with the geographic region of Australasia. The ecozone includes Australia, the island of New Guinea (including Papua New Guinea
New Guinea
and the Indonesian province of Papua), and the eastern part of the Indonesian archipelago, including the island of Sulawesi, the Maluku islands (the Indonesian provinces of Maluku and North Maluku) and islands of Lombok, Sumbawa, Sumba, Flores
Flores
and Timor, often known as the Lesser Sundas. The Australasian ecozone also includes several Pacific island groups, including the Bismarck Archipelago, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, and New Caledonia. New Zealand
New Zealand
and its surrounding islands are a distinctive sub-region of the Australasian ecozone. The rest of Indonesia
Indonesia
is part of the Indomalayan ecozone. From a biological point of view, Australasia
Australasia
is a distinct region with a common evolutionary history and a great many unique plants and animals, some of them common to the entire area, others specific to particular parts but sharing a common ancestry. The long isolation of Australasia
Australasia
from other continents allowed it to evolve relatively independently, which makes it home to many unique families of plants and animals. Australia
Australia
and New Guinea
New Guinea
are distinguished by their marsupial mammals, including kangaroos, possums, and wombats. The last remaining monotreme mammals, the echidnas and the platypus, are endemic to Australasia. Prior to the arrival of humans about 50,000 years ago, only about one-third of Australasian mammal species were placental. The boundary between Australasia
Australasia
and Indomalaya follows the Wallace Line, named after the naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace who noted the differences in mammal and bird fauna between the islands either side of the line. The Islands to the west of the line, including Java, Bali, Borneo, and the Philippines
Philippines
share a similar fauna with East Asia, including tigers, rhinoceros, and apes. During the ice ages, sea levels were lower, exposing the continental shelf that links these islands to one another and to Asia, and allowed Asian land animals to inhabit these islands. Similarly, Australia
Australia
and New Guinea
New Guinea
are linked by a shallow continental shelf, and were linked by a land bridge during the ice ages. A group of Australasian islands east of the Wallace Line, including Sulawesi, Halmahera, Lombok, Flores, Sumba, Sumbawa, and Timor, is separated by deep water from both the southeast Asian continental shelf and the Australia- New Guinea
New Guinea
continental shelf. These islands are called Wallacea, and contain relatively few Australian or Asian mammals. While most land mammals found it difficult to cross the Wallace Line, many plant, bird, and reptile species were better able to make the crossing. Australia, New Zealand, and New Caledonia
New Caledonia
are all portions of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana, which started to break into smaller continents in the Cretaceous
Cretaceous
era, 130-65 million years ago. New Zealand
New Zealand
broke away first, more than 80 million years ago, and Australia
Australia
finally broke free from Antarctica about 45 million years ago. All the Australasian lands are home to the Antarctic
Antarctic
flora, descended from the flora of southern Gondwana, including the coniferous podocarps and Araucaria
Araucaria
pines, and the broadleafed southern beech (Nothofagus), and proteas (Proteaceae). As Australia
Australia
moved north into the desert latitudes, the continent became hotter and drier, and the soils poorer and leached of nutrients, causing the old Antarctic flora
Antarctic flora
to retreat to the humid corners of the continent in favor of new drought and fire tolerant flora, dominated by the Eucalyptus, Casuarina, and Acacia trees, and by grasses and scrub where the rainfall was too scarce to support trees. Presently Australia
Australia
is the smallest continent, and also the driest continent and the flattest (lowest in elevation) continent. See also[edit]

Australasia
Australasia
at the Olympics Austral- Asia
Asia
Cup Down Under Sundaland Trans-Tasman Zealandia Asia-Pacific Eastern world

Notes[edit]

^ de Brosses, Charles (1756). Histoire des navigations aux terres Australes. Contenant ce que l'on sçait des moeurs & des productions des contrées découvertes jusqu'à ce jour; & où il est traité de l'utilité d'y faire de plus amples découvertes, & des moyens d'y former un établissement [History of voyages to the Southern Lands. Containing what is known concerning the customes and products of the countries so far discovered; and treating of the usefulness of making broader discoveries there, and of the means of setting up an establishment there] (in French). Paris: Durand. Retrieved 2013-12-08.  ^ Douglas, Bronwen (2014). Science, Voyages, and Encounters in Oceania, 1511-1850. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 6. 

References[edit]

Richards, Kel (2006). "Australasia". Wordwatch. ABC News Radio. Retrieved 2006-09-30. 

 This article incorporates text available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license. External links[edit]

Media related to Australasia
Australasia
at Wikimedia Commons Australasia
Australasia
at New World Encyclopedia

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  Bo

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