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This has been made possible by plate tectonics, the system driving Earth’s continents slowly around the globe. Plate tectonics is the study of the movement of the huge plates of the landmass beneath the earth surface which results into drifting of the continents.
This hypothesis of drifting continents was proposed by German scientist Alfred Wegener for the first time in 1912. He used many types of evidence available in abundance on the earth’s surface. Some of the evidences pointing out such supercontinent cycle are.
Fossil Remains: Similar types of plant and animal fossils were found in different areas of continents which were studied to be connected. For example, the fossil remains of a small reptile found both in Africa and Latin America.
Rock Formations: In the coastal regions, the rocks were found to be matching even in areas which were widely separated. To prove this point Wegener came out with the proof suggesting the reconstruction of an ice cap radiating from South Africa, whose marks were traced across the southern continents.
Climatic Conditions: Some climatic patterns were observed which were not in conformity with the normal climate of the region/s, thus suggesting that these climatic conditions could have been affected by the climatic conditions at some other places or regions.
Wegener’s hypothesis therefore led us to believe that while on the one hand the some of the western African regions have similarities with the eastern part of South America. the northern part of African continent had similarities with the southern regions of North America. Similarities were also found in the southern part of Asian region and the western part of African continent, thus giving the thought an impetus. Initially though Wegener’s hypothesis was not taken seriously, but gradually, as the theory of plate tectonics developed in 1960’s, more and more studies took place, the notions of supercontinent gained wider acceptance. The plate tectonics theory believes that the surface of earth is divided into a number of shifting plates with an average thickness of around 50-80 km. African, American, Antarctic, Eurasian, Indian and Pacific regions have all been assigned huge plates while smaller landmasses with smaller plates are identified as Arabian, Caribbean, Cocos, Nasca, Philippine and Scotia regions. In fact scientists have identified about 15 major tectonic plates. Earthquakes help in identifying the plates.
The supercontinent theory suggests that during the Paleozoic Era, there was a huge continent named Pangeae, which included all the continents. The name Pangaea is derived from the Greek word “pan” meaning “all” and Gaea or Gaia i.e. the Greek name of the divine personification of the Earth. Pangaea, therefore, means “all land.” During the Triassic Period, the Pangeae started fragmenting thus resulting in the existing number of continents. This process is said to be continuing even now. The supercontinent theory suggests such occurrences have also happened in the past, thus the name ‘supercontinent cycle’. Canadian geologist John Tuzo Wilson also provided an insight into the hypothetical supercontinent cycle, who described the fragmentation of continents, opening and closing of the ocean basin and subsequent reassembly of the continents.