An international team of scientists led by Tristan Sallis, a geologist at the University of Sydney, has just published Great animationWhere we can see how the Earth’s surface has changed over the past 100 million years. It should be emphasized here that this is the most accurate visualization of changes in the distribution of continents on Earth’s surface to date.
In the second view of the animation, it is worth ignoring the movement of the continents themselves, but focusing on the development of mountain ranges on the Earth’s surface, where tectonic plates collide and cause uplift. Likewise, if tectonic plates approach each other at one place, they move away from each other at the opposite end, creating basins that instantly fill with water over millions of years.
The continents continue to diverge and the oceans continue to expand
Most importantly, this movement has never stopped, it continues even now. Just as the earth a hundred million years ago is not like the earth of today, so in a hundred million years the present earth will be history. Especially since surface changes are also the result of factors such as erosion, changes in the atmosphere, volcanic activity, and finally mass movements in the Earth’s mantle.
The animation is only 22 seconds long, but it carries a lot of information about our planet that we don’t take into account when thinking about distant times. The animation begins a hundred million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the surface of the continents for over 130 million years. At that time, the animation shows the supercontinent Pangea, which has been breaking apart for 100 million years. Already at this point, you can see the distinct shapes of Africa and South America breaking away from each other. In turn, in the northern part of the planet, we initially see several smaller continents, which over time will merge to form Eurasia and North America.
Dinosaurs walked a completely different land than we do. Even the asteroid impact that destroyed it happened somewhere other than we think.
In the lower left part of the window we can see the progress bar of the animation that started 100 million years ago (100 million years ago) and ends in the present day. Stop the animation around the ninth second (0:09) and take a look at the distribution of the continents now. Learn how close the islands that will eventually become Great Britain are to Greenland. Look a little lower. You can clearly see Africa receding to the right and North America flowing away from it. We are about 65 million years ago. This is what Earth looked like when an asteroid, at least four kilometers in diameter, hit it. The impact occurs on the boundary between the present-day Gulf of Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula. Yes, you can find this place in cartoons, but it’s worth recognizing that it was much closer to the masses that make up Europe today than it appears now.
However, the animation itself will be particularly useful to geologists, who will use the information in it to understand the processes taking place inside the Earth, just below the crust, in the upper layers of the mantle, but also to understand climate changes on Earth over the ages. On the other hand, by tracking sediment movement, biologists may take an extra step on the path to solving the mystery of the origin of life on our planet’s surface.
Finally, there is another idea that is completely unrelated to the aforementioned animation, but writing about it sparked. Dinosaurs appeared on Earth 237 million years ago and disappeared from its surface 66 million years ago. This means that they have dominated the Earth’s surface for about 170 million years. Normally we tend to throw all the dinosaurs in one bag. It is worth realizing that between the first and last dinosaurs to walk the Earth, more than twice the time passed between us and the last dinosaurs.
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