Ask GeoMan...

I'm in 7th grade and doing a report on plate tectonics, earthquakes, and volcanoes. Could you tell me roughly when Pangea started splitting up?

Pangea is the name given by Alfred Wegener to a "supercontinent" which existed several hundred million years ago. According the the theory of continental drift, this single global continent split up and, through the process of plate tectonics, has resulted in the current locations of the major continental landmasses. The exact day of the split is impossible to determine. One reason has to do with the incomplete nature of the geologic record: this happened very long ago, nobody was around to keep detailed records, and many of the rocks which were involved with the actual event are not exposed at the surface where we can see them. Another problem relates to the 2nd Law of GeoFantasy: things move REAL SLOW, and it is probable that the initial split took a very long span of time (possibly measured in millions of years).

Based on current theories, Pangea began to split apart near the end of the Triassic period, approximately 200 million years ago (give or take a week). This date is partially based on the ages of basalt flows found in the central portion of the Atlantic Ocean. However, it is probable that the plate motions did not result in an actual ocean basin (now the Atlantic) until much later in the Jurassic.


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