230 Mya (Triassic Period):
Pre-dinosaurs called a
prosauropods die in Madagascar, forming some of the oldest fossils yet
found. Ancestors of these dinosaurs are thought to include large
plant-eating species such as Apatosaurus and Diplodocus. At this point
in history, Madagascar is part of a landmass called Pangea that gave
rise to all the continents we know today.
180 Mya (Middle Jurassic Period):
Madagascar is part
of the ancient supercontinent Gondwana, which consists of the land known
today as South America, Africa, Madagascar, India, Australia, and
- 150 Mya (Early Cretaceous Period):
Madagascar, along with
India, Australia and Antarctica, breaks off of the eastern side of
Gondwana. At this time, the creatures on Madagascar were similar to
those of eastern Africa, including therapod and sauropod dinosaurs and
- 120 Mya (Early Cretaceous Period): South America
splits off the western side of Africa, ending Gondwana.
Madagascar is located at approximately the same latitude as it is today.
- 100-65 Mya (Early Cretaceous Period): India and
Madagascar break apart. India begins to drift quickly to the northeast.
- 70 Mya (Late Cretaceous): Mammals begin to evolve.
Fossils of at least 7 early mammals from this period are found on
Madagascar. They share the island with dinosaurs and primitive birds.
- 65 Mya (End of the Cretaceous Period): Dinosaurs go
extinct throughout the globe.
- 65-40 Mya (Paleocene and Eocene): Most of the plant
and animal populations on Madagascar evolve in isolation from all other
continents, although some organisms continue to travel between the two
landmasses, especially birds.
- 54-47 Mya (Eocene): The ancestors of Madagascar's
primates and other early mammals arrive on the island, perhaps on rafts
- 40 Mya (Eocene): Madagascar reaches its current
position and the Mozambique Channel reaches its current depth and width,
effectively ending animal movement and creating the renowned sea barrier
between Africa and Madagascar.
- 22-14 Mya (Miocene): The ancestor of living Malagasy
tortoises arrives on the island.
- ~500 AD: First humans arrive on Madagascar. Most scholars
believe that the first settlers included people from Malay Archipelago
(Borneo) who arrived after sailing along the shores of East
Africa, representing a mix of African and Asian genes and culture.
- ~600 AD: Arabs begin to establish trading posts along the
northwest coast of the island.
- 1500 AD: Portuguese sea captain Diego Dias is the first
European to see Madagascar after getting lost on his way to India. The
Northern City of Diego Suarez is named after this man and Fernando
Suarez, who visited the island in 1506.
- 1600 - 1700: French trading posts are set up on the east
coast. These become favorite rendezvous points for pirates until the mid
- 1658 - The last recorded sighting of a living Elephant Bird,
a giant flightless bird similar to the ostrich. Isolated populations may
have survived into the 1700s.
- 1787-1860: The Merina people of Madagascar's Central
Highlands conquer and rule over virtually all other peoples of the
island, establishing their capital in Antananarivo "the city of a
- 1835: Queen Ranavalona of the Merina kicks out all foreigners
and declares Christianity illegal. Madagascar maintains an anti-European
policy until the mid 1860s.
- 1841: A Malagasy slave on the island of Reunion discovers how
to pollinate the vanilla orchid (introduced from Mexico to the
Indian Ocean islands). Soon after, he returns to Madagascar, where
over the next 100 years it becomes a principal export of the country.
Today 60% of all vanilla comes from Madagascar.
- 1885: A French protectorate is set up in Madagascar.
- 1960: Madagascar receives independence on June 26.
2003: President Marc Rayalomanana presents his plan for
conservation at the World Parks Congress in Durban, South Africa. The
plan, now known as the "Durban Vision", commits Madagascar to increase
the amount of wild land under protection to 6 million hectares, or 10%
of the country's total area, by 2008.