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 Home » Tutorials » Geography » Physical Geography » Origin of Continents and Oceans

Origin of Continents and Oceans


A from one super–continent, called Pangaea. The super-continent, by mid-Jurassic, 150 million years ago, Pangaea had split into a northern continent called Laurasia, and a southern continent called Gondwanaland. About 65 million years ago, i.e. at the end of Cretaceous, Gondwanaland further broke up to give rise to several other continents such as South America, Africa, Australia, and Antarctica. India broke apart and followed an independent route moving towards northeast.

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There are evidences that suggest the existence of Pangaea. The ancient mountain belt, 470 to 350 million years old, were created by a continuous belt of geological activity. These mountains are now separated by the Atlantic Ocean. Some fossils also tell us that the continents were once joined. For example, fossils of the plant Glossopteris and the animals Mesosurus and Lystrosaurus have all been found on all continents of Gondwanaland that are now widely separated.

Geological Matching

Significant observation is the occurrence of gold deposits within river alluvium in the Ghana coast (Africa) and the absolute absence of source rocks in that region. However, across 5,000 km wide ocean, there are gold-bearing veins in Belen Sau in Brazil (South America) but no gold deposits within alluvium in the adjacent coastal belt. Placing Africa and South America together, the solution emerges with stunning effectiveness. The gold bearing sediments were transported down the slope in Brazil and deposited in the belt which is today the Ghana coast.

Palaeoclimatic Unity

Thick glacial deposits of Permo-Carboniferous age are exposed at Uruguay and Brazil in South America, Africa, south India, south Australia and Tasmania. The uniformity in the nature of sediment indicates that these continents/countries were together in the geological past and experienced similar climatic conditions. Today, these countries are situated in various types of climatic zones, from temperate to tropical and are widely separated from each other by large oceans. Similarly, corals thrive in warm waters between the latitudes 300N and 300S. However, remnants of some corals found on the continents away from the region strengthen the view that these continents were nearer to the equator in the geological past. The continents have moved northwards and are experiencing cold and frigid climatic conditions today.

Polar Wandering

One of the strongest line of evidence that the continents were formerly united in Pangaea came from palaeomagnetism. The magneti-cally susceptible minerals such as magnetite, haematite, ilmenite, pyrrhotite in lava/magma and unconsolidated sediments have the tendency to align themselves parallel to the magnetic field prevailing at that time. This property is retained in the rocks as permanent magnetism. There has been periodic change in the position of magnetic pole that is recorded in rocks by way of permanent magnetism. Unraveling the signatures of such changes in the geologically old rocks by scientific methods provides the changing position of poles in geological time scale. This is known as polar wandering. The polar wandering clearly demonstrates that the continents have frequently moved and changed directions of their motion from time to time.

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