Pangaea

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Map of Pangaea
Pangaea or Pangæa (IPA: /pænˈdʒiːə/[1], from παν, pan, meaning entire, and γαια, gaia, meaning Earth in Ancient Greek) was the supercontinent that existed during the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras about 250 million years ago, before each of the component continents were separated into their current configuration.

The name was first used by the German originator of the continental drift theory, Alfred Wegener, in the 1920 edition of his book The Origin of Continents and Oceans (Die Entstehung der Kontinente und Ozeane), in which a postulated supercontinent Pangaea played a key role.

Configuration of Pangaea

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Physical map of the supercontinent Pangaea (~230 million years ago)
Pangaea is believed to have been a C-shaped landmass that was spread across the equator. The body of water that was believed to have been enclosed within the resulting crescent has been named the Tethys Sea. Owing to Pangaea's massive size, the inland regions appear to have been very dry, due to the lack of precipitation. The large supercontinent would potentially have allowed terrestrial animals to migrate freely all the way from the South Pole to the North Pole.

The vast ocean that once surrounded the supercontinent of Pangaea has been named Panthalassa. Pangaea is believed to have broken up about 180 million years ago (mya) in the Jurassic Period, first into two supercontinents (Gondwana to the south and Laurasia to the north), thereafter into the continents as we understand them today.

Formation of Pangaea

Rodinia, which formed 1.1 billion years ago during the Proterozoic, was the supercontinent from which all subsequent continents, sub or super, derived. Rodinia does not preclude the possibility of prior supercontinents as the breakup and formation of supercontinents appear to be cyclical through Earth's 4.6 billion years.

Gondwana followed with several iterations before the formation of Pangaea, which succeeded Pannotia, before the beginning of the Paleozoic Era (545 mya) and the Phanerozoic Eon.

The minor supercontinent of Proto-Laurasia rifted away from Gondwana and moved across the Panthalassic Ocean. A new ocean was forming between the two continents, the Proto-Tethys Ocean. Soon, Proto-Laurasia rifted apart itself to create Laurentia, Siberia and Baltica. The rifting also spawned two new oceans, the Iapetus and Khanty Oceans. Baltica remained east of Laurentia, and Siberia sat northeast of Laurentia.

In the Cambrian the independent continent of Laurentia on what would become North America sat on the equator, with three bordering oceans of Panthalassic Ocean to the north and west and Iapetus Ocean to the south, and Khanty Ocean to the east. In the Earliest Ordovician, the microcontinent of Avalonia, a landmass that would become the northeastern United States, Nova Scotia, and England, broke free from Gondwana and began its journey to Laurentia. [2]

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Euramerica's formation.
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Appalachian orogeny.
Baltica collided with Laurentia by the end of Ordovician, and northern Avalonia collided with Baltica and Laurentia. Laurentia, Baltica, and Avalonia formed to create a minor supercontinent of Euramerica or Laurussia, closing the Iapetus Ocean, while the Rheic Ocean expanded in the southern coast of Avalonia. The collision also resulted in the formation of the Northern Appalachians. Siberia sat near Euramerica, with Khanty Ocean between the two continents. While all this was happening, Gondwana drifted slowly towards the South Pole. This was the first step of the formation of Pangaea. [3]

The second step in the formation of Pangaea was the collision of Gondwana with Euramerica. By Silurian time, Baltica had already collided with Laurentia to form Euramerica. Avalonia hadn't collided with Laurentia yet, and a seaway between them was a remnant of Iapetus Ocean was still shrinking as Avalonia slowly inches towards Laurentia.

Meanwhile, southern Europe fragmented from Gondwana and started to head towards Euramerica across the newly formed Rheic Ocean and collided with southern Baltica in the Devonian, though this microcontinent was an underwater plate. Iapetus Ocean's sister ocean, Khanty Ocean, was also shrinking as an island arc from Siberia collided with eastern Baltica (now part of Euramerica). Behind this island arc was a new ocean, Ural Ocean.

By late Silurian time, North and South China rifted away from Gondwana and started to head northward across the shrinking Proto-Tethys Ocean, and on its southern end, the new ocean, Paleo-Tethys Ocean, opening. In the Devonian Period, Gondwana itself headed towards Euramerica, this caused the Rheic Ocean to shrink.

In the Early Carboniferous, northwest Africa had touched the southeastern coast of Euramerica, creating the southern portion of the Appalachian Mountains, and the Meseta Mountains. South America moved northward to southern Euramerica, while the eastern portion of Gondwana (India, Antarctica, and Australia) headed towards the South Pole from the equator.

North China and South China were on independent continents. Kazakhstania microcontinent had collided with Siberia (Siberian continent has been a separate continent for millions of years since the deformation of the supercontinent Pannotia) in the Middle Carboniferous.

Western Kazakhstania collided with Baltica in the Late Carboniferous, closing the Ural Ocean between them, and western Proto-Tethys in them (Uralian orogeny), causing the formation of the Ural Mountains, and the formation of the supercontinent of Laurasia. This was the last step of the formation of Pangaea.

Meanwhile, South America had collided with southern Laurentia, closing the Rheic Ocean, and forming the Southernmost part of the Appalachians and Ouachita Mountains. By this time, Gondwana was positioned near the South Pole, and glaciers were forming in Antarctica, India, Australia, and southern Africa and South America. The North China block collided with Siberia by Late Carboniferous time, completely closing Proto-Tethys Ocean.

By Early Permian time, the Cimmerian plate rifted away from Gondwana and headed towards Laurasia, with a new ocean forming in its southern end, the Tethys Ocean, and the closure of the Paleo-Tethys Ocean. Most of the landmasses were all in one. By the Triassic Period, Pangaea rotated a little, towards the southwest direction. The Cimmerian Plate was still travelling across the shrinking Paleo-Tethys, until the Middle Jurassic Time. Paleo-Tethys had closed from west to east, creating the Cimmerian Orogeny. Pangaea looked like a "C", with an ocean inside the "C", the new Tethys Ocean. Pangaea had rifted by the Middle Jurassic, and its deformation is explained below.

Rifting and break-up of Pangaea

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Pangaea separation animation


There were three major phases in the break-up of Pangaea. The first phase began in the Early-Middle Jurassic, when Pangaea created a rift from the Tethys Ocean in the east and the Pacific in the west. The rifting took place between North America and Africa, the rift produced multiple failed rifts. The rift resulted in a new ocean, the Atlantic Ocean.

The Atlantic Ocean did not open uniformly; rifting began in the North-Central Atlantic. The South Atlantic did not open until the Cretaceous. Laurasia started to rotate clockwise and moved northward with North America to the north, and Eurasia to the south. The clockwise motion of Laurasia also led to the closing of the Tethys Ocean. Meanwhile, in the other side of Africa, new rifts were also forming along the adjacent margins of east Africa, Antarctica, and Madagascar that would lead to the formation of the Southwest Indian Ocean that would also open up in the Cretaceous.

The second, major phase in the break-up of Pangaea began in the Early Cretaceous (150-140 million years ago), when the minor supercontinent of Gondwana separated into four multiple continents (Africa, South America, India and Antarctica/Australia). About 200 million years ago, the continent of Cimmeria, as mentioned above ("The Formation of Pangaea"), collided with Eurasia. However, a subduction zone was forming, as soon as Cimmeria collided.

This subduction zone was called the Tethyan Trench. This trench might have subducted what is called the Tethyan mid-ocean ridge, a ridge responsible for Tethys Ocean's expansion. It probably caused Africa, India and Australia to move northward. In the Early Cretaceous, Atlantica, today's South America and Africa, finally separated from Eastern Gondwana (Antarctica, India, and Australia), causing the opening of a "South Indian Ocean". In the middle Cretaceous, Gondwana fragmented to open up the South Atlantic Ocean as South America started to move westward away from Africa. The South Atlantic did not develop uniformly, rather it rifted from south to north.

Also, at the same time Madagascar and India began to separate from Antarctica and moved northward, opening up the Indian Ocean. Madagascar and India separated from each other 100 - 90 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous. India continued to move northward toward Eurasia at 15 centimeters per year (a plate tectonic record), closing the Tethys Ocean, while Madagascar stopped and became locked to the African Plate. New Zealand and New Caledonia began to move from Australia in an eastward direction towards the Pacific, opening the Coral Sea and Tasman Sea. They have been independent islands since.

The third major and final phase of the break-up of Pangaea occurred in the early Cenozoic (Paleocene - Oligocene). North America/Greenland broke free from Eurasia, opening the Norwegian Sea about 60-55 million years ago. The Atlantic and Indian Oceans continued to expand, closing the Tethys Ocean.

Meanwhile, Australia split from Antarctica and moved rapidly northward, just as India did more than 40 million years earlier, and is on a collision course with Eastern Asia. Both Australia and India are currently moving in a northeast direction at 5-6 cm/year. Antarctica has been near or at the South Pole since the formation of Pangaea (since about 280 Ma). India started to collide with Asia beginning about 35 million years ago, forming the Himalayan orogeny, and also finally closing the Tethys Seaway; this collision continues today. The African Plate started to change directions, from west to northwest toward Europe, and South America began to move in a northward direction separating it from Antarctica, allowing complete oceanic circulation around Antarctica for the first time, causing a rapid cooling of the continent and allowing glaciers to form. Other major events took place during the Cenozoic, including the opening of the Gulf of California, the uplift of the Alps, and the opening of the Sea of Japan. The break-up of Pangaea continues today in the East Africa Rift; ongoing collisions may indicate the incipient creation of a new supercontinent.

See also

References

1. ^ OED
2. ^ Stanley, Steven (1998). Earth System History, 355-359. 
3. ^ Stanley, Steven (1998). Earth System History, 386-392. 

External links

This chart shows concisely the most common way in which the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is applied to represent the English language.

See International Phonetic Alphabet for English for a more complete version and Pronunciation respelling for English for phonetic
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Ancient Greek refers to the second stage in the history of the Greek language[1] as it existed during the Archaic (9th–6th centuries BC) and Classical (5th–4th centuries BC) periods in Greece.
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In geology, a supercontinent is a land mass comprising more than one continental core, or craton. The assembly of cratons and accreted terranes that form Eurasia[1] qualifies as a supercontinent today.
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The Paleozoic Era (from the Greek palaio, "old" and zoion, "animals", meaning "ancient life") is the earliest of three geologic eras of the Phanerozoic eon.
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The Mesozoic Era is one of three geologic eras of the Phanerozoic eon. The division of time into eras dates back to Giovanni Arduino, in the 18th century, although his original name for the era now called the 'Mesozoic' was 'Secondary' (making the modern era the 'Tertiary').
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continent is one of several large landmasses on Earth. They are generally identified by convention rather than any strict criteria, but seven areas are commonly regarded as continents – they are (from largest in size to smallest): Asia, Africa, North America, South America,
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Germans (German: Deutsche) are defined as an ethnic group, in the sense of sharing a common German culture, citizenship, speaking the German language as a mother tongue and being born in Germany.
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Continental drift refers to the movement of the Earth's continents relative to each other.

Frank Bursley Taylor had proposed the concept in a Geological Society of America meeting in 1908 and published his work in the GSA Bulletin in June 1910.
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Alfred Lothar Wegener (Berlin, November 1, 1880 – Greenland, November 2 or 3, 1930) was a German interdisciplinary scientist and meteorologist, who became famous for his theory of continental drift ("Kontinentalverschiebung" or "die Verschiebung der Kontinente" in his words).
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equator is an imaginary line on the Earth's surface equidistant from the North Pole and South Pole. It thus divides the Earth into a Northern Hemisphere and a Southern Hemisphere. The equators of other planets and astronomical bodies are defined analogously.
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body of water is any significant accumulation of water such as an ocean, a lake, or a river, usually covering the Earth or another planet. Some bodies of water can be man-made, or artificial, such as a pond, lake or harbor, but most are naturally occurring geographical features.
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precipitation (also known as hydrometeor) is any product of the condensation of atmospheric water vapor that is deposited on the earth's surface. It occurs when the atmosphere (being a large gaseous solution) becomes saturated with water vapour and the water condenses and
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South Pole, also known as the Geographic South Pole or Terrestrial South Pole, is the southernmost point on the surface of the Earth. It lies on the continent of Antarctica, on the opposite side of the Earth from the North Pole.
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North Pole, also known as the Geographic North Pole or Terrestrial North Pole, is, subject to the caveats explained below, defined as the point in the northern hemisphere where the Earth's axis of rotation meets the Earth's surface.
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Panthalassa (Greek meaning 'all seas'), also known as the Panthalassic Ocean, was the vast global ocean that surrounded the supercontinent Pangaea, during the Paleozoic and the early Mesozoic eras.
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mya or "m.y.a." is an abbreviation for million years ago. This abbreviation is commonly used as a unit of time to denote length of time before the present or "B.P." (before AD 1950). Specifically, one mya is equal to 106 years ago.
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The Jurassic Period is a major unit of the geologic timescale that extends from about 199.6 ± 0.6 Ma (million years ago) to 145.4 ± 4.0 Ma, the end of the Triassic to the beginning of the Cretaceous.
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A geologic period is a subdivision of geologic time that divides an era into smaller timeframes. The equivalent term used to demarcate rock layers and the fossil record is the system; thus the rocks of the Devonian System were laid down during the Devonian Period.
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Gondwana (IPA: /ɡɒnˈdwɑːnə/[1], originally Gondwanaland) included most of the landmasses in today's southern hemisphere, including Antarctica, South America, Africa, Madagascar,
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South is most commonly a noun, adjective, or adverb indicating direction or geography.

South is one of the four cardinal directions or compass points. It is the opposite of North and at right angles to East and West.
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Laurasia (IPA: /lɔˈreɪʃiə, lɔˈreɪʃiʒə/[1]) was a supercontinent that most recently existed as a part of the split of the Pangaean supercontinent in the late
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North is one of the four cardinal directions, specifically the direction that, in Western culture, is treated as the primary direction: north is used (explicitly or implicitly) to define all other directions; the (visual) top edges of maps usually correspond to the
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continent is one of several large landmasses on Earth. They are generally identified by convention rather than any strict criteria, but seven areas are commonly regarded as continents – they are (from largest in size to smallest): Asia, Africa, North America, South America,
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Rodinia (from the Russian родина, or "motherland") refers to one of the oldest known supercontinents, which contained most or all of Earth's then-current landmass.
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Proterozoic (IPA: /ˌprəʊt(ə)rəˈzəʊɪk/) is a geological eon representing a period before the first abundant complex life on Earth. The Proterozoic Eon extended from 2500 Ma to 542.
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The name "Vaalbara" is given to Earth's theorized first supercontinent. According to radiometric data of the encompassing cratons that constituted Vaalbara, it is believed to have existed 3.3 billion years ago (3.3 Ga) and possibly even as far back as 3.6 Ga.
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The supercontinent cycle describes the quasi-periodic aggregration and dispersal of Earth's continental crust. There are varying opinions as to whether Earth's budget of continental crust is increasing, decreasing, or remaining about constant, but it is agreed that this inventory
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Gondwana (IPA: /ɡɒnˈdwɑːnə/[1], originally Gondwanaland) included most of the landmasses in today's southern hemisphere, including Antarctica, South America, Africa, Madagascar,
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Pannotia, first described by Ian W. D. Dalziel in 1997, is a hypothetical supercontinent that existed from the Pan-African orogeny about 600 million years ago to the end of the Precambrian about 540 million years ago. It is also known as the Vendian supercontinent.
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