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Smallest continent, largest island - Specworld's Australia (Ozspec or SpecOz) is by all accounts a bizarre place. Breaking away from Antarctica during Old Gondwana's final hour in the Eocene, Ozspec has remained unique in being a stable and consistently hospitable continental landmass surrounded by ocean barriers. Thus SpecOz's biota has evolved apart from the rest of the world for the last 50 million years producing a multitude of unique endemic forms. Including the most recently discovered marsupial, the kangaroo-like Miniroo (Nanumpus).

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Miniroo, Nanumpus (Australia)

Now straddling the Tropic of Capricorn, Ozspec has comparatively recently begun to face increasing arid conditions although the level of desertification is considerably less than that of "Ozarel" (Real Life Australia). The land is mostly wide open sandy plains, punctuated by ancient weathered mountain ranges. Dense forests and mangroves (not too dissimilar from those Ozarel) that contain relict Gondwanan taxa cling to the wet coastal areas becoming increasingly patchy further inland. These islands of greenery in otherwise arid areas has led to a high degree of speciation amongst the smaller reptiles and mammals.

This also led to the evolution of euclasaurs and ausankylosaurs. These browsers and grazers provide an abundant supply of meat for the island's two groups of predators: one is similar to carnivores on the other continents; the other is found only in Australia and Papua. While cedunasaurs can easily target brush-runners and chlorosaurs, these usually small theropods stay clear of dreadnaughts, larger euclasaurs, and even little pyoros. This opens the door for Ozspec's dominant predator guild, the rynchoraptors.

Where the rains become less frequent, the wet forests give way to more open sclerophyll woodlands and savannah, eventually grading into desert scrub. Close to the only similarity between these corresponding regions of Ozarel and Ozspec is the predominance of the Myrtaceae (p-Eucalyptus and kin), trees with tough, oil-rich foliage, many with enormous taproots that draw sustenance from the vast artesian basins that lie beneath much of the continent. In fact the Myrtaceae appears to have become the dominant Australian tree family on Spec long before than those of RL with the generalized p-Eucalyptus radiating into a number of unique genera.

Brian Choo

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