Palaeo map late Cretaceous Click to enlarge image
late Cretaceous c 125 million years ago Image: Ronald Blakey
© Ronald Blakey Exhibitions

In the early Cretaceous, many of the southern continents were still joined together as part of the southern landmass called Gondwana. Northern continents formed the great landmass Laurasia. These two supercontinents shared many plants and animals dating from an earlier time when they were joined as one enormous landmass.

Late Cretaceous
A typical landscape of the late Cretaceous Period, c75 million years ago. Image: Karen Carr
© Karen Carr/Australian Museum

Australia's Cretaceous facts


  • Australia was joined to Antarctica, New Zealand and South America, forming the last remnant of the great southern landmass called Gondwana. About 80 million years ago New Zealand drifted away from the rest of Gondwana.
  • The Australian part of Gondwana was located close to the South Pole. Southern Australia lay within the Antarctic Circle.

Australia's position during the Early Cretaceous Period
Australia's position during the Early Cretaceous Period (top right). Image: Illustration
© Australian Museum


  • Australia had a cool, wet climate.For several weeks each year, parts of Australia may have had an icy polar winter including semi-darkness.


  • A shallow inland sea called the Eromanga Sea covered nearly one-third of Australia.

Archaefructus liaoningensis fossil
Fossil: Archaefructus liaoningensis is the earliest known flowering plant. Fossils were found in China and are about 125 million years old. Image: Stuart Humphreys
© David L Dilcher and Sun Ge


  • Towering conifer forests covered much of Australia. Smaller plants such as ferns, gingkoes, cycads, clubmosses and horsetails created an understorey. The first flowering plants had begun to bloom.

Fossil of Ginkgo tree, Ginkgoites australis
Fossil of Ginkgo tree, Ginkgoites australis, from Koonwarra, Victoria, Australia. F 68366. Early Cretaceous, 118–115 million years ago. Image: Robert Jones
© Australian Museum


What was happening in the rest of the world

  • Flowering plants were spreading throughout the world.
  • Some dinosaurs including meat-eating tyrannosaurs were becoming dominant while others such as plant-eating, plated dinosaurs like stegosaurs were declining.
  • Early forms of birds and mammals lived in most continents