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Spec: Madagascar

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Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world, located off the southeastern coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean, and separated from the African coast by the channel of Mozambique. The island is divided by ridges, valleys, rivers and tropical forests into many sections, each with a somewhat different climate and topography: a central plateau with scattered trees and tall grasses, narrow coastal plains in the east, and low plateaus and plains in the west. A backbone of mountains stretches the length of the island. Rivers are short and fast flowing in the east and longer in the west. Behind the coral beaches of the east coast an almost continuous chain of lagoons is connected by the Pangalanes Canal, which forms and inland waterway.

The tropical climate provides varying amounts of rainfall. The south is very arid, and the west is hot and wet. Once covered by forests, most of the island in now has savannah-steppe vegetation with a few deciduous forests in the west and evergreen forests on the eastern edge of the central plateau. There are also some mangrove swamps and tropical rainforests on the eastern coast. Separated from the mainland for millennia, Madagascar and its surrounding islands are home for hundreds of endemic species. Some dinosaur clades have also evolved here, many of which are still little known or have yet to be discovered. Madagascar has lost its original population of tree-munching titanosaurs, and its vegetation doesn't generally show large degrees of adaptation mechanisms to stop Malagascan dwarf mokeles. Instead, Malagasy plants have only to cope with the relatively mild attention of the hoplocrocs, native crocodilians, which in turn live in fear of their cousins, the croclions, and the rukhs, giant predatory birds. The few Malagasy non-avian dinosaurs, like the mucrodontosaurs, tend to be specialized and cryptic.

Madagascar and the surrounding islands also carry some African-derived species, such as the pithecavians. Mammals include lemurs, primates related to the pokemuriods of Eurasia, and a few other relic groups. Large tracts of unexplored land may yet harbor many new species.

João Boto

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