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Madagascar (/ˌmædəˈɡæskər, -kɑːr/; Malagasy: Madagasikara), officially the Republic of Madagascar (Malagasy: Repoblikan'i Madagasikara, Malagasy pronunciation: [republiˈkʲan madaɡasˈkʲarə̥]; French: République de Madagascar), and previously known as the Malagasy Republic, is an island country in the Indian Ocean, approximately 400 kilometres (250 miles) off the coast of East Africa across the Mozambique Channel. At 592,800 square kilometres (228,900 sq mi) Madagascar is the world's second-largest island country, after Indonesia. The nation consists of the island of Madagascar (the fourth-largest island in the world) and numerous smaller peripheral islands. Following the prehistoric breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana, Madagascar split from the Indian subcontinent around 88 million years ago, allowing native plants and animals to evolve in relative isolation. Consequently, Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot; over 90% of its wildlife is found nowhere else on Earth. The island's diverse ecosystems and unique wildlife are threatened by the encroachment of the rapidly growing human population and other environmental threats.

Human settlement of Madagascar occurred during or before the mid first millennium AD by Austronesian peoples, arriving on outrigger canoes from present-day Indonesia. These were joined around the 9th century AD by Bantu migrants crossing the Mozambique Channel from East Africa. Other groups continued to settle on Madagascar over time, each one making lasting contributions to Malagasy cultural life. The Malagasy ethnic group is often divided into 18 or more subgroups, of which the largest are the Merina of the central highlands.

Until the late 18th century, the island of Madagascar was ruled by a fragmented assortment of shifting sociopolitical alliances. Beginning in the early 19th century, most of the island was united and ruled as the Kingdom of Madagascar by a series of Merina nobles. The monarchy ended in 1897 when the island was absorbed into the French colonial empire, from which the island gained independence in 1960. The autonomous state of Madagascar has since undergone four major constitutional periods, termed republics. Since 1992, the nation has officially been governed as a constitutional democracy from its capital at Antananarivo. However, in a 2009 political crisis, president Marc Ravalomanana was made to resign and presidential power was transferred in March 2009 to Andry Rajoelina. Constitutional governance was restored in January 2014, when Hery Rajaonarimampianina was named president following a 2013 election deemed fair and transparent by the international community. Madagascar is a member of the United Nations, the African Union (AU), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie. (Full article...)

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Ambondro lingual.jpg

Ambondro mahabo is a mammal from the Middle Jurassic (Bathonian) Isalo III Formation (about 167 million years ago) of Madagascar. The only described species of the genus Ambondro, it is known from a fragmentary lower jaw with three teeth, interpreted as the last premolar and the first two molars. The premolar consists of a central cusp with one or two smaller cusps and a cingulum (shelf) on the inner, or lingual, side of the tooth. The molars also have such a lingual cingulum. They consist of two groups of cusps: a trigonid of three cusps at the front and a talonid with a main cusp, a smaller cusp, and a crest at the back. Features of the talonid suggest that Ambondro had tribosphenic molars, the basic arrangement of molar features also present in marsupial and placental mammals. It is the oldest known mammal with putatively tribosphenic teeth; at the time of its discovery it antedated the second oldest example by about 25 million years.

Upon its description in 1999, Ambondro was interpreted as a primitive relative of Tribosphenida (marsupials, placentals, and their extinct tribosphenic-toothed relatives). In 2001, however, an alternative suggestion was published that united it with the Cretaceous Australian Ausktribosphenos and the monotremes (the echidnas, the platypus, and their extinct relatives) into the clade Australosphenida, which would have acquired tribosphenic molars independently from marsupials and placentals. The Jurassic Argentinean Asfaltomylos and Henosferus and the Cretaceous Australian Bishops were later added to Australosphenida, and new work on wear in australosphenidan teeth has called into question whether these animals, including Ambondro, did have tribosphenic teeth. Other paleontologists have challenged this concept of Australosphenida, and instead proposed that Ambondro is not closely related to Ausktribosphenos plus monotremes, or that monotremes are not australosphenidans and that the remaining australosphenidans are related to placentals. (Full article...)

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Philibert Tsiranana in 1962.

Philibert Tsiranana (18 October 1912 – 16 April 1978) was a Malagasy politician and leader, who served as the first President of Madagascar from 1959 to 1972.

During the twelve years of his administration, the Republic of Madagascar experienced institutional stability that stood in contrast to the political turmoil many mainland African countries experienced in this period. This stability contributed to Tsiranana's popularity and his reputation as a remarkable statesman. Madagascar experienced moderate economic growth under his social democrat policies and came to be known as "the Happy Island." However, the electoral process was fraught with issues and his term ultimately terminated in a series of farmer and student protests that brought about the end of the First Republic and the establishment of the officially socialist Second Republic. (Full article...)

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Jean Verdi Salomon Razakandrainy (1913–1978), commonly known as Dox, was a Malagasy writer and poet considered one of the most important literary figures in the country's history. He is principally renowned for his poetry and plays, but was also a painter, wrote and performed musical compositions, and translated several major French and English language works into Malagasy. His works have formed part of the language arts curriculum in Madagascar at every grade level since the country regained independence in 1960.

Dox began writing in 1930 while studying at a fine arts school in Antananarivo, where fellow students gave him the nickname "Dox". In 1932, after briefly conceding to his father's wish that he study medicine, Dox dedicated himself fully to the arts and joined with other notable Malagasy poets in advancing the Mitady ny very movement ("search for lost values"), launched by Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo, Charles Rajoelisolo and Ny Avana Ramanantoanina. His work during this period reflected the movement's aim to reaffirm the value of Malagasy identity, which had been eroded under the influence of the French colonial administration. In 1941, he printed his first collection of poems, Ny Hirako, which was written in the Malagasy language. When a major nationalist uprising erupted in 1947, Dox rallied behind the Mouvement démocratique de la rénovation malgache and suffered a gunshot wound during a protest. He also actively took part in the student protests of 1972 that brought down the Tsiranana administration. In 1971 he published his only compilation of French language poems, Chants Capricorniens. Over the span of his career, he produced nine poem anthologies, numerous books in prose, and sixteen plays featuring folk tales, Biblical stories or Malagasy historical themes, in addition to countless privately commissioned works. (Full article...)

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Landscape near Fianarantsoa, Madagascar.



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Women sweeping a path in Atsinanana, Madagascar.

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