A FASCINATING video has revealed how Earth’s tectonic plates have moved the continents around like jigsaw pieces over a billion years.
The 40 second clip was put together by scientists and shows how America was once very close to Africa.
The video shows how the tectonic plates pulled the continents apartCredit: EarthByte / YouTube
Tectonic plates cover the Earth like a patchwork quilt.
They’re essentially giant slabs of rock that form part of the Earth’s crust and they’re always moving.
These movements are normally so minuscule we don’t even notice but sometimes friction between two plates can trigger devastating earthquakes.
Volcanic activity, tidal patterns and animals and their evolution are all affected by the slow drift of the plates.
The researchers think Earth looked like this one billion years agoCredit: EarthByte / YouTube
Geoscientist Michael Tetley told Euronews: “For the first time a complete model of tectonics has been built, including all the boundaries.
“On a human timescale, things move in centimetres per year, but as we can see from the animation, the continents have been everywhere in time.
“A place like Antarctica that we see as a cold, icy inhospitable place today, actually was once quite a nice holiday destination at the equator.”
The plates movement in the video is measured in ‘MA’, which stands for “million years ago”, and shows just how much things can continents can move around.
Studying tectonic plates could teach us more about how habitable Earth and certain continents will be in the future.
In order to piece together the history of the plates, scientists studying material locked in rock samples and matched it with other samples from all over the world.
They also looked at previous models of plate movement.
Scientists still aren’t sure precisely when the tectonic plates first formed or whether we are missing some.
Dr Sabin Zahirovic from the University of Sydney, said: “Planet Earth is incredibly dynamic, with the surface composed of ‘plates’ that constantly jostle each other in a way unique among the known rocky planets. These plates move at the speed fingernails grow, but when a billion years is condensed into 40 seconds a mesmerising dance is revealed.
“Oceans open and close, continents disperse and periodically recombine to form immense supercontinents.”
The scientists behind the video have published in the March edition of Earth-Science Reviews.
A timeline of life on Earth
The history of the planet in years…
- 4.6billion years ago – the origin of Earth
- 3.8billion years ago – first life appears on Earth
- 2.1billion years ago – lifeforms made up of multiple cells evolve
- 1.5billion years ago – eukaryotes, which are cells that contain a nucleus inside of their membranes, emerge
- 550million years ago – first arthropods evolve
- 530million years ago – first fish appear
- 470million years ago – first land plants appear
- 380million years ago – forests emerge on Earth
- 370million years ago – first amphibians emerge from the water onto land
- 320million years ago – earliest reptiles evolve
- 230million years ago – dinosaurs evolve
- 200million years ago – mammals appear
- 150million years ago – earliest birds evolve
- 130million years ago – first flowering plants
- 100million years ago – earliest bees
- 55million years ago – hares and rabbits appear
- 30million years ago – first cats evolve
- 20million years ago – great apes evolve
- 7million years ago –first human ancestors appear
- 2million years ago – Homo erectus appears
- 300,000 years ago – Homo sapiens evolves
- 50,000 years ago – Eurasia and Oceania colonised
- 40,000 years ago – Neandethal extinction
In other news, an ancient mummy with a golden tongue has been unearthed in Egypt.
The remnants of Neanderthal ancestry can be found in human genomes all over the world.
And, archaeologists think they’ve uncovered a murder victim from the Iron Age at a farm in the UK.
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