Theories About the Formation of Continents and Other Changes on Earth
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Theories About the Formation of Continents and Other Changes on Earth

There are two theories that explain the formation of continents and changes that took place on earth.

Long time ago, people believed that the position of the land and water forms were fixed and that they were there in the same location since the beginning, but it was soon discovered by scientists that the land masses did move and are still moving up to now.

The changes on the earth that includes the formation of the continents could be explained by two theories.

The Wegener Thesis or Drifting Continents Theory

In 1912, Alfred Wegener, a German meteorologist theorized that the world was once a big single land mass called Pangaea. Pangaea was surrounded by a single ocean called Panthalassa. The big land mass broke into two big land masses called Gondwanaland and Laurasia. From Gondwanaland formed the continents of Antarctica, Australia, Africa, South America and Indian subcontinent. The continents of Europe, Asia and North America were formed from Laurasia.

This theory was a product of Wegener’s research and discovery that there were remarkable resemblances of the rocks and fossils of plants and animals in the different continents in the world. Alfred Wegener believed that the world was once a big land mass but it moved and formed into different continents. In 1920 Wegener advanced the hypothesis of continental drift theory explaining the movement of continents.

Although some scientists did not believe Wegener’s theory, in the early 1950s precision instruments were developed and scientists were able to accurately get data from the ocean floor. So in 1960, scientists believed that the continents did move.

The Plate Tectonics Theory

The Plate Tectonics Theory explains the movement of the continents, the formation of the oceanic crust, the location of mountains and volcanoes and the occurrences of earthquakes. According to this theory, the outer layer of the earth called the lithosphere is broken into nine plates and other smaller plates. These plates are of two kinds namely; continental plates and oceanic plates. These plates move slowly carrying with them the continents and the ocean floor.

The plates move in three different ways. Some plates move away from each other. Some move toward each other and some slide past each other.

When two oceanic plates move away from each other, they form a ridge or a rift valley. When two plates move toward each other, they form a mountain or a volcano. And when two plates slide past each other, an earthquake occurs due to the strain that builds up from the impact produced by the motion.

The two theories explain the formation of continents and other changes that take place on earth.

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