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Continental drift was a revolutionary hypothesis that explained how continents shift location on the Earth’s surface. Alfred Wegener, a geophysicist and meteorologist, first suggested the theory in 1912, however it was later disproved by the majority of scientists. Some of Wegener’s theories were eventually proven by scientists and are now a part of the generally recognized theory of plate tectonics.
The concept of shifting continents was first proposed in geoscience by Wegener’s continental drift theory. He asserted that the Earth must have once been a single supercontinent before fragmenting into numerous separate continents. This clarified how related rock formations and fossilized plants and animals might survive on different continents. As Wegener postulated, this ancient supercontinent known as Pangaea did exist before fragmenting around 200 million years ago.
What Causes of Continental Drift?
- The plate tectonic theory fully explains the reasons for continental drift. The plates that make up the earth’s crust move a little amount each year.
- Through convection currents in the mantle, heat from the earth’s interior causes this movement to take place. This slow migration caused the once-combined supercontinent to split into the seven continents you see today millions of years ago.
- Nearly all plate movement takes place at boundaries between various plates.
- There is the development of new crust at divergent boundaries as plates migrate apart. On the other hand, when the plates interact during tectonic movement, the crust is destroyed.
- At convergent borders, destruction occurs when one plate slides below the other. However, when plates move past one another horizontally near transform borders, the crust is never destroyed.
- The universe has been influenced by continental drift in numerous ways. The world’s climate, geographic locations, and animal evolution have all been impacted.
- Grave consequences from continental drift include volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis. Humans have been able to understand how the earth’s crust moves as well as the reasons for volcanoes, earthquakes, oceanic trenches, the formation of mountain ranges, and other geological events thanks to the theory of continental drift.
Evidence of Continental Drift Theory
Fossil plants and animal’s clue
Fossils of creatures and plants uncovered on different continents aided him in making his argument that the continents were once linked before breaking up and drifting apart. Mesosaurus, Lystosaurus, Cygnognathus, and Glossopteris are a some of the fossils that have been found on the continents.
- Mesosaurus: Fossils of Mesosaurus were once aquatic freshwater reptiles. They were freshwater reptiles that lived in lakes and rivers. Mesosaurus is found in the southern regions of North America and Africa, according to the map that existed before the continents drifted apart. The Atlantic Ocean separates North America and Africa from one another on the current map, which was created when the continents drifted apart. His theory is therefore supported by the fact that freshwater reptiles cannot swim across ocean seas, which accounts for their distribution across all continents. Fossils found on many continents revealed that the continents were previously connected before they drifted apart.
- Lystrosaurus and Cygnognathus: A fossil of a land reptile, Lystrosaurus. Cygnognathus is a fossilized reptile of a different species. Before the continents migrated, Cygnognathus was located in South America and Africa, according to the map. In contrast, Lystrosaurus was found in Antarctica, India, and Africa. The body anatomy of the Lystrosaurus and Cygnognathus indicates that swimming is not in their nature. After the continents drifted, the current map shows that Cygnognathus is located in South America and Africa. Therefore, in a strict sense, the creature would not have had to cross an ocean to reach the next continent. The presence of these reptiles on various continents is evidence that these distinct land masses were once one unit before separating. The contemporary map also shows that Lystrosaurus is located in Antarctica, India, and Africa.
- Glossopteris: Glossopteris was a fern-derived fossil. It is a fern that was discovered in Africa, South America, Antarctica, India, and Australia. These continents are far apart, based on the current map. Therefore, it is improbable that the fern seeds that gave rise to this kind of population on these five continents were carried by the wind or carried by ocean currents. The fact that the seeds could not have been carried by wind or water to these continents demonstrates that they were once one.
Information from climate
Wegener supported his claims with data from climatic indicators in addition to fossil material. The glacier was one of the hints he employed. In his exploration, Wegener found glacier grooves on every continent. The enormous trenches or features created by glacier movement are known as glacier grooves. In continents that were not cold enough to sustain snow formation today, he found glacier groves. The glacier grooves lined up exactly as he joined these continents. This implied that these continents were formerly connected before dispersing throughout time.
The perfect fitting of continents
By examining the actual physical characteristics of continental coastlines, Wegener also gave proof of continental drift. The shape of the continent’s coastlines appeared to fit together like a puzzle. Consider how well the continents of South America and Africa fit together. The continents were previously fixed together and throughout time began to drift apart, according to this.
Wegener explicitly cited the differences in rock types and mountain ranges as proof of continental drift. He offered proof that when put together, mountain ranges found on different continents matched up fairly well. The mountain ranges’ exact alignment revealed that the continents were originally one unit. The mountain ranges of North America and Europe, for instance, exactly line up. Mountains usually develop when two opposing land masses contact, causing the rock present at the collision site to bend or bulge upwards.
The types of rocks on the opposing sides of the continents were of the same kind in sites where continents line up in terms of their rock composition. It is more evidence that the continents were once joined before splitting apart and drifting apart that these match-up points were composed of the same type of rock.
Facts About Continental Drift
- Wegener and his supporters gathered a lot of evidence to back the theory of continental drift, other from how the various continents fit together.
- The Earth’s crust is divided into tectonic plates. Where the plates rise above sea level, continents and islands arise.
- About 200 million years ago, Pangea split into two main geographic masses known as Laurasia and Gondwanaland.
- Around 120 million years ago, India started to travel northward toward Asia as North America and Europe split apart.
- According to scientists, the continents of Earth may reunite in roughly 250 million years.
- Most of the plates that make up the Earth are both continental and marine in origin.
- Continents have changed in relation to one another, as evidenced by the alignment of magnetic minerals in their ancient rocks.
- Oceanic plates are only about 3 mi (4.8 km) thick, whereas continental plates can be up to 43 mi (69.2 km) thick.
- For rocks of the same age but from different continents, the little magnets directed to various magnetic north poles, which was discovered by geologists.
- For instance, magnetite from Europe that is 400 million years old pointed to a different magnetic north pole than magnetite from North America that is the same age.
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