Continental Drift

Overview and explanation of the theory of continental drift

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Rosalyn Pearson 10R 20/02/2010 Geography, Mr. Meek
The theory of Continental Drift is the movement of the Earth's continents relative to
each other. It is thought that once the continents were arranged differently and that
land masses were of different size and shape than now. This idea arose before the
theory of Plate Tectonics as when it was first speculated people did not know about
the different plates that make up the Earth's crust. It was first suggested by Alfred
Wegener in 1915 after he had noticed that the shapes of some continents (most
notably Africa and South America) seemed to `fit together'. Wegener's theory was not,
however, accepted until after his death.
Wegener speculated that once a giant super-continent named Pangaea (meaning `all
Earth') existed in the earlier geological eras, 200 million years ago, and has since
broken up.
Pangaea supposedly broke up into two smaller continents named Laurasia and
Gondwana before forming the continents that we know today. Evidence that
supported this theory was discovered in the way of fossils. Fossil beds in some parts
of the world appeared to match exactly those in other parts of different continents.
For example, fossils of the aquatic dinosaur Mesosaurus were discovered on the East
coast of South America and the west coast of Africa.
Eduard Suess, an Austrian geologist, noticed a link between South America, India,
Australia, Africa and Antarctica. He named the super-continent that combined these
land masses Gondwanaland or Gondwana as shown on the map on the previous page.

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Rosalyn Pearson 10R 20/02/2010 Geography, Mr. Meek
Gondwana was the southern land mass that broke off from Pangaea and was named
after an area in India where fossils of the Glossopteris plant (native plant of
Gondwanaland) can be found.
South African scientist, Alexander duToit, supported the theories of both Suess and
Wegener after making several observations concerning continental drift.
Continental drift is such a slow process that it is barely noticeable. On a geological
time scale, however, the effects are more obvious.…read more


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