What is Pangea? Do you know that the continents we see now were not divided the same way 250 million years ago? There was one huge landmass called Pangea, constituting of all landmasses on Earth and surrounded by water. Can you imagine what would the Map look like then? Let’s explore the Theory in this post.
Fun Fact: A research study done at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) shows that India drifted at a speed of 5.9 inches per year for 30 million years and collided with Eurasia. Thus, creating The Himalayan Range, the tallest mountains on earth.
‘Pan’ means ‘All’ or ‘Entire’. And, ‘Gaia’ means ‘Earth’ in ancient Greek. Hence, Pangea or Pangaea becomes the whole landmass on Earth existing together!
To understand the process of formation of continents, let’s understand a few geographical terms:
- Continent: The landmasses that constitute nearly 30% of Earth; the seven continents or landmasses are – Asia, Australia, Africa, Europe, North America, South America, and Antarctica.
- Continental Drift: It is the process of movement of Earth’s crust on the liquid core.
- Meteorology: The study of Earth’s atmosphere is called meteorology. The folks involved in Weather Processing, Forecasting, etc. are called Meteorologists.
- Lithosphere: The Earth constitutes of three layers broadly: Crust (uppermost layer of Earth), Mantle and Core (LiquidCore). Together, the Crust and Upper Mantle make the Lithosphere.
Photo Source: Physical Geography
- Supercontinent: The supercontinent phenomenon is the integration of all continents to form one continental lithosphere of the whole landmass. This process of integration and splitting of continents takes place in every 400 to 500 million years.
- Tectonic Plates: One plate of a lithosphere is a tectonic plate.
Now that you know the geographical words, it’s easy to define:
A supercontinent which was formed 250 million years ago when all the continental lithospheres of the Earth united to form one supercontinent known as Pangea.
What followed after 100 million years was the breakup of the supercontinent, resulting in the formation of 7 small (not really) continents we know now!
The Man Behind
A German Meteorologist called Alfred Wegener proposed the Pangaea Theory in 1912. It was a hypothesis that continents move around the world over time!
For the first time in History, the theories of continental drift, supercontinent, and Pangaea came into being.
Alfred proposed that the continents that look like this now:
Photo Source: Geology.com
The continents did not look the same on the Pangea Map. The East coast of South America was adjacent to West Coast of Africa. India, Australia, China, and all other Countries shared one common landmass.
People thought he was crazy. And no proper evidence proved the theory.
Alfred Wegener, being a lover of meteorology and climatology, went on to find the possible evidence in his time to prove his thesis.
However, only over the latter half of 20th century, we developed our technology, resources, and education and found a lot of evidence to prove the theory!
Sadly, Alfred Wegener’s last expedition was to Arctic in 1930 when the German govt. Sanctioned a project of $120,000 to measure the thickness of Greenland ice sheet and to observe the weather of Arctic for one year.
He died in the same experiment due to insufficient supply of resources, fuel, and food and could not live through the time his work started getting recognition.
Well, there are three shreds of evidence that demonstrate the existence of a Supercontinent. And, the Map thus made by taking into consideration all the information known to us, it makes complete sense.
Photo Source: Vivid Maps
Let’s see each evidence that proves the thesis:
1. Plate tectonics
It was the study of plate tectonics that gave us the most accurate insight into the existence of a Supercontinent.
We were only able to map the tectonic plates in the second half of 20th Century. Then, the meteorologists found patterns in the tectonic plates of India and the southern hemisphere, which proved the theory.
Similar patterns were present in the fossils found from various places:
- Fossils of mesosaurus were present in both east coast of South America and Western Coast of Africa
- Fossils of Lystrosaurus were present in India, Africa and Antarctica! So it is impossible that dinosaurs or other species would swim and travel to all these countries. They have to stay in one place!
3. Mountains, Minerals, and Rocks!
Do you know that there are some identical Radioactive minerals exist in Germany and Canada! Also, similar half-life or time decay patterns in a few minerals also reinforce the idea of a single continent.
Apart from that, the mountain structures of Western Europe and the North Eastern States are also similar. Surely, There was a common landmass shared between the two continents! Hence, proving the Theory.