Event Detail


Madagascar's Mammals: The Great Voyage

Dr Jason Ali
Wednesday, 15 Sep 2010
Pacific Place Conference Centre, 5/F One Pacific Place , Admiralty
6.30 pm drinks 7.30 pm lecture starts. No need to book; tickets at the door. HK$100 members HK$150 others.

No pre booking required please turn up and pay for your ticket at the door. Drinks from 6.30pm lecture starts 7.30pm

We are delighted to welcome to the Royal Geographical Society Dr Jason Ali to lecture on Madagascars Mammals: The Great Voyage. Famous for its lemurs and chameleons, Madagascar hosts one of the planets most unique animal assemblages, with more than 80% of the islands species endemic. How these unusual animals got to Madagascar has mystified scientists for centuries.

In this lecture, Dr Ali, tells the story of his reserarch which most believe has solved this conundrum.As part of 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 islands 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 historians for well over two centuries. The codiscoverer 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.

Dr Ali explains the key elements of the study, including why the animals could not have walked or islandhopped 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 2060 million years ago. In addition, Dr Ali explains why it has effectively been impossible for AfricaMadagascar overwater migrations to have taken place since 1520 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 IndiaAsia collision system, Paleobiogeography research and how land animals have colonised new frontiers. Dr Ali has some 130 papers in print. He 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.

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