Separating from Pangaea

All the continents of Planet Earth rest on giant slabs of rock called plate tectonics. Due to the movement of the plates, the continents drifted around until they completely separated from the supercontinent “Pangaea”. Over the past millions of years, the continents moved to where they are now. They are still moving today and the location of the continents will be very different after millions of years.

Alfred Wegener created the theory of Continental Drift. He thought that the continents were kind of like a jigsaw puzzle. Mountain ranges seemed to start on one continent and continue on another. For example, the Appalachian Mountains in North America matched up neatly with the Scottish Highlands. Fossils in various places showed that the climate there a long time ago had been different. Fossils of fresh water reptile Mesosaurus were discovered in both Africa and South America. It could not have swum across the salty ocean so scientists conclude that the two continents were once joined.

This theory was supported by the theory of plate tectonics. This theory explains how forces deep within Earth caused ocean floors to spread and continents to move. It describes how the lithosphere is made up of huge plates of solid rock. The continents rest on these plates. The asthenosphere is made up of almost melted rock and acts as a slippery surface for the plates to move on. Magma is pushed from the mantle toward the movement when the plates move. Tension is caused by the upward movement. It moves the ocean floor apart and separates the plates. The continents that rest on these plates also move apart.

Based on fossils, rocks, and other geological evidence, scientists concluded that the continents were once part of the supercontinents “Pangaea”. Over time, the continents spread apart due to the movement of plate tectonics. Even now, the continents are still moving and North America is drifting closer to Asia and Australia.