12 1 evidence for continental drift
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12.1 Evidence for Continental Drift. Wegener came up with the continental drift theory the idea that the continents used to be connected as one big supercontinent but slowly moved apart over time He named the original supercontinent Pangaea.

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12 1 evidence for continental drift
12.1 Evidence for Continental Drift

  • Wegener came up with the continental drift theory

    • the idea that the continents used to be connected as one big supercontinent but slowly moved apart over time

  • He named the original supercontinent Pangaea.


  • He used the following evidence to come up with his theory:

    • The continents looked as though they might fit together like puzzle pieces.(The continental shelves actually fit together even better)

    • There were matching geologic features and rocks on different continents.

    • There were matching fossils, like Mesosaurus, on different continents.

    • There was evidence of different climates, (eg. such as glaciers) on warm continents.

Like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, the continents

fit together into one, large whole.


How can continents move
How Can Continents Move?

  • Wegener’s evidence for continental drift did not explain

    how entire continents could change locations so his theory was not accepted yet.

  • Eventually, his theory was accepted because:

    • New scientific equipment allowed scientists to measure the slow but steady drift of Earth’s tectonic plates.

    • It was noted that earthquakes and volcanoes appear in certain patterns along the edges of tectonic plates.

    • Mapping of the ocean floor revealed the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a long mountain range running down the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.


Volcanoes are frequently found on boundaries between tectonic plates.


Sea floor spreading an explanation
Sea Floor Spreading: An Explanation other ocean rocks.

  • Hess suggested that magma rose to form new rock at certain places.

    • Magma (melted rock) rises and falls like warm and cold liquids.

    • The convection currents of magma formed a spreading ridge where they broke through Earth’s crust.

      • Like a “new crust” conveyer belt

      • Magnetic striping of basalt rock shows long stripes of new rock moving away from ocean ridges and the direction of Earth’s magnetic field at that time.


Sea floor spreading an explanation1
Sea Floor Spreading: An Explanation other ocean rocks.

  • Wilson then unified the ideas of Wegener and Hess into the plate tectonic theory that says

    • Continental drift occurs because of magma cooling and forcing the floating tectonic plates apart at spreading ridges

      Note: Hot spots are places magma rises to Earth’s surface that can happen at weak spots in the centre of plates (rather than along the plate boundaries)

Take the Section 12.1 Quiz


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