New Seafloor Map Reveals Secrets of Ancient Continents’ Shoving Match

Jan 23, 2016

Photo credit: NASA Earth Observatory

By Knvul Sheikh

Tectonic plates may have inched across the Earth’s surface to where they are now over the course of billions of years, but they left behind traces of this movement in bumps and gashes under the sea. Now, a new topographic map of the seafloor has helped researchers chronicle when the Indian-Eurasian continent formed as well as find a previously undiscovered microplate that broke off as a result of the event.

NASA’s Earth Observatory released the map on Jan. 13, and it reveals the complex topography of the planet’s seafloor. By analyzing these underwater peaks and ridges, researchers can decipher how and when the plates that made up the ancient supercontinent Pangaea tore apart about 200 million years ago, resulting in the birth of new ocean crust and the formation of mountain ranges.

The map, which is bright blue and red like a heat map, was compiled by an international team of researchers using a gravity model of the ocean, which is in turn based on altimetry data from the CryoSat-2 and Jason-1 satellites.


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2 comments on “New Seafloor Map Reveals Secrets of Ancient Continents’ Shoving Match

  • When I first heard of plate tectonics years after I’d left school, I remembered seeing the (Mercator Projection) world map in the classroom, and being told to dismiss the silly notion that Africa somehow once fitted against South America like a jigsaw-piece. Not sure if it was my notion or a classmates. Anyway, it was Absolute Rubbish. So we were taught.

    I like to remember this in face of any kind of Absolute Certainty from anyone, current scientific consensus included. They can be wrong, they’ve been wrong before.



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  • OHooligan
    Jan 23, 2016 at 10:04 pm

    I like to remember this in face of any kind of Absolute Certainty from anyone, current scientific consensus included. They can be wrong, they’ve been wrong before.

    Humans (including scientists) are prone to incredulity.
    The disbelief in plate tectonics was based on ignorance of the plasticity of rocks when looking at “solids” on planetary scales and subject to planetary forces.
    It was truth hidden in plain sight!
    It is the very nature of spheroid planets, that they have collapsed into the spheriod form under the force of their own gravity.



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