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The Lesser Sunda Islands or Nusa Tenggara[citation needed] ("Southeast Islands") are a group of islands in the southern Maritime Southeast Asia, north of Australia. Together with the Greater Sunda Islands to the west they make up the Sunda Islands. The islands are part of a volcanic arc, the Sunda Arc, formed by subduction along the Java Trench in the Java Sea.


The Lesser Sunda Islands consist of two geologically distinct archipelagos. The northern archipelago, which includes Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores and Wetar, is volcanic in origin, a number of these, like Mount Rinjani on Lombok, are still active while others, such as Kelimutu on Flores with its three multi-coloured crater lakes, are extinct. It began to be formed during the Pliocene, about 15 million years ago, as a result of the collision between the Australian and the Asian plates. The islands of the southern archipelago, including Sumba, Timor and Babar, are non-volcanic and appear to belong to the Australian plate. The geology and ecology of the northern archipelago share a similar history, characteristics and processes with the southern Maluku Islands, which continue the same island arc to the east.

There is a long history of geological study of these regions since Indonesian colonial times; however, the geological formation and progression is not fully understood, and theories of the geological evolution of the islands changed extensively during the last decades of the 20th century.

Lying at the collision of two tectonic plates, the Lesser Sunda Islands comprise some of the most geologically complex and active regions in the world. Biodiversity and distribution is affected by various tectonic activities. The islands of the northern archipelago are geologically young being from 1 to 15 million years old, and have never been attached to a larger land mass. Only Bali was part of the Ice Age continent of Sundaland, separated by the Lombok Strait from a 400-mile-long island including present-day Lombok, Sumbawa, Komodo, Flores, Solor, Adonara, and Lembata. Pantar and Alor formed a small island just to the east, while Sumba and Timor remained separate islands to the south.

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