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Plate Tectonics And Our Supercontinental Past

976 words - 4 pages

The theory of plate tectonics spans a large amount of time and history. To be very generic, the theory of plate tectonics describes the movement of the earth’s outermost layer known as the lithosphere. There are several theories that precede and coincide with plate tectonics. One of the earliest theories is that all the earth’s continents once were one large supercontinent known as Rodinia. There is little information about Rodinia, however the time frame for this phenomenon is estimated to have formed over one billion years ago. In the millions of years following, the supercontinent disassembled causing two major events. One event is known as Snowball Earth and the other is the evolution of ...view middle of the document...

However, before Rodinia, there were a few other theoretical landmasses that existed. The earliest were from over three billion years ago. The supercontinent was only made of a couple cratons, but due to their lonely existence, they were still considered a supercontinent. The mass was called Vaalbara. Without getting too in depth, there were several masses of rock on the earth. The first “proper” supercontinent is known as Columbia. This fifty-million square kilometer land mass may have been small in relation to the today’s continents, but Columbia’s size could still be considered immense.
The first supercontinent that is absolute was Rodinia. Over one billion years ago, this supercontinent formed from the remains of Columbia. Eventually, the moving plates caused the mass to separate. This break up caused rising seas, which allowed for animals and plants to make their way onto land. The division also caused volcanic eruptions, causing nutrients from the core to emerge onto the land thus allowing organisms to survive and it created a new subduction zone. After Rodinia’s disband, another less known culmination of landmasses known as Pannotia was created. This supercontinent was short lived (only sixty million years) and gave way to the creation the earth’s last known supercontinent, Pangaea. (Wilkens)
Pangaea is another common supercontinent theory. During his presentation, Alfred Wegener proposed that all the continents fit together like a large jigsaw puzzle. His theory of continental drift was based off of geographical, geological and paleontological evidence. Wegener postulated two-hundred-million years ago all of the earth’s continents were one large landmass. Wegener’s hypothesis of continental drift also explained that as the sea floor dispersed, so did the supercontinent Pangaea. His ideas would later be proven in the mid to late twentieth century that in fact the continents of earth were moving. There is much evidence that supports the idea of Pangaea being formed from the landmasses that once made...

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