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Word Count: 357
Australia is one of Earths twelve mega diverse nations Its unique plant life is typified by the uniquely Australian gum tree distinguishes Australia as one of the worlds six floristic regions Not only is Australia rich in species but most of its native plants and animals are endemic that is they occur naturally only in Australia Australias high levels of uniqueness arise because for more than 50 million years Australia has been an island continent and its fauna and flora has evolved in isolation Eighty-five percent of Australias flowering plants 84 of mammals 89 of reptiles 93 of frogs and 85 of inshore marine fish are unique to Australia Even among the highly mobile birds 45 of species are confined to Australia There are many reasons why Australia is rich in species Despite an absence of expansive mountain ranges and extensive forests the continent spans nearly 35 degrees of latitude from 5 degrees in the north to nearly 40 degrees south and has a precipitous rainfall gradient from the moist continental fringes to the arid interior These gradients from the tropics to the cool temperate zones and from the wet to the dry produce a succession of communities each with its distinctive and highly adapted flora and fauna The long stability of the continent has also been important in the evolution of a diverse fauna and flora and the continents richest plant communities are found in the southwest of Western Australia and in the east on the sandstones enveloping Sydney Both regions have a long history of stability and have not been glaciated or covered by the oceans for tens of millions of years The origin of some flora can be traced back to the Pangaean times For example the fossil kauri pine Agathis jurassica is known from the Talbragar Fish Beds in New South Wales as are fossils of the cycad Lepidozamia hopei These beds have been dated as
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