This article needs additional citations orchid Tome 02 PDF verification. Madagascar is a large island in the Indian Ocean off the eastern coast of southern Africa, east of Mozambique. It is the fourth largest island in the world.
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Madagascar originated as part of the Gondwana supercontinent. Its west coast was formed when Africa broke off from Gondwana around 165 million years ago. Madagascar eventually broke off from India about 88 million years ago. It is geologically located within the Somali plate. Madagascar can be divided into five general geographical regions: the east coast, the Tsaratanana Massif, the Central Highlands, the west coast, and the southwest.
The highest elevations parallel the east coast. The beach slopes steeply into deep water. The Central Highlands extend from the Tsaratanana Massif in the north to the Ivakoany Massif in the south. A prominent feature of the Central Highlands is a rift valley running north to south, located east of Antananarivo and including Lac Alaotra, the largest body of water on the island. The west coast, composed of sedimentary formations, is more indented than the east coast, thus offering a number of harbors sheltered from cyclones, such as the harbor at Mahajanga.
The southwest is bordered on the east by the Ivakoany Massif and on the north by the Isala Roiniforme Massif. It includes two regions along the south coast, the Mahafaly Plateau and the desert region occupied by the Antandroy people. The Mananara and Mangoro rivers flow from the Central Highlands to the east coast, as does the Maningory, which flows from Lake Alaotra. The rivers flowing to the west coast discharge into the Mozambique Channel and tend to be lengthier and have a lesser gradient. Important lakes, aside from Alaotra, include Lake Kinkony in the northwest, Lake Itasy in the center and Lake Ihotry in the southwest.
Madagascar has been called the « Great Red Island » because of the prominence of red lateritic soils. The red soils predominate the Central Highlands, although there are much richer soils in the regions of former volcanic activity, Itasy and Ankaratra, and Tsaratanana to the north. The climate is tropical along the coast, temperate inland, and arid in the south. This region has a hot, humid climate in which tropical fevers are endemic. The dry season is sunny, although somewhat chilly, especially in the mornings.
Although frosts are rare in Antananarivo, they are common at higher elevations. The west coast is drier than either the east coast or the Central Highlands because the trade winds lose their humidity by the time they reach this region. Madagascar occasionally experiences the impact of cyclones. 4, 1994, Madagascar was struck by Cyclone Geralda, the worst cyclone to come ashore on the island since 1927. The cyclone killed seventy people and destroyed enough property to leave approximately 500,000 homeless, including 30,000 in Antananarivo and 80,000 in Toamasina. The island of Madagascar has been described as an « alternate world » or a « world apart » because of the uniqueness and rarity of many of its plant and animal species.
Their characteristics are believed to reflect the island’s origins as a part of Gondwanaland and its many millions of years of isolation following the breakup of the landmass. Many of the characteristic African species–large mammals such as the elephant, rhinoceros, giraffe, zebra, and antelope and predators such as lions and leopards–do not exist in Madagascar. In addition, the island has been spared the great variety of venomous snakes indigenous to the African continent. Madagascar was once covered almost completely by forests, but slash and burn practices for dry rice cultivation has denuded most of the landscape, especially in the Central Highlands. The remaining rain forest contains a great number of unique plant species.