Sunteți pe pagina 1din 25


> Have you had the chance to go to a

mountain, stand on its peak and look at the
beauty that it offers?
>Do you think it looks exactly the
same as before?
If it wasn’t the same 10 years ago, how
much different is it 10 million years ago,
100 millions years ago?
Continental Drift Seafloor Spreading



Fit of
continents Rock Age of Magnetic
from fossils
formations evidence in
rocks rocks

Caused by movement and interactions of sections of the earth’s crust and upper

The Continental Drift Theory

In 1912, Alfred Wegener, a German meteorologist proposed a theory

that about 200 million years ago, the continents were once one large
landmass or supercontinent. He called this land mass “Pangaea” a greek word
which means “All Earth”.
This landmass started to break into two smaller supercontinent
called “Laurasia and Gondwanaland” during the Jurassic Period. These smaller
supercontinents broke into the continents and these continents separated
and drifted apart since then.
Wegener searched for evidences to support his claim. He noticed the
fit of the edges of the continents on the opposite sides of the South Atlantic.
His evidences to the Continental Drift theory includes:
a. The distribution of fossils in different continents (fossils embedded
in rocks)
b. Rock Features and Rock formations
c. Ancient climates
Evidence: The Continental Jigsaw Puzzle
The edge of South America and Africa fit together.; India, Antarctica and
Australia match one another; Eurasia and North America complete the whole
completes the continental puzzle in the north.

Evidence from Fossils

Fossils are “preserved remains or traces of organisms (plants and
animals) from the remote past. Fossils of extinct plants and animals are found on
rocks that are of the same age and these rocks are widely distributed in continents
that are very far from one another. Wegener proposed that these organisms lived,
died, and were fossilized together in the past.

Evidence from Rocks

The rocks themselves also provide evidence that continents drifted
apart from each other. From the previous evidence, you have learned that Africa
fits with South America. Rock formations in Africa line up with that in South
America as if it was a long mountain range. The folded cape mountains of South
America and Africa line up perfectly as if they were once a long mountain range.
Rocks of the same type and age are discovered in both South America
and Africa.
Fossilized leaves of an extinct plant Glossopteris were found in 250 million years old
rocks. This fossils were located in the continents of southern Africa, Australia, India, and
Antarctica, which are now separated from each other by wide oceans. The large seeds
of this plant could not possibly travel a long journey by the wind or survive a rough ride
through ocean winds.
Fossil of Mesosaurus were discovered in different continents, such as in South
America and Africa. It is impossible for this reptile to swim over the vast oceans and
move from one continent to another. Fossils were also found in Antarctica.
Could it be possible that they existed in this region where temperature was
very low? Or could it be possible that, long before, Antarctica was not in its current
During the 1950s and 1960s, new techniques and
modern gadgets enabled scientists to make better
observations and gather new information about the
ocean floor. With the use of SONARS and submersibles,
scientists had a clearer view of the ocean floors. They
have discovered underwater features deep within the
Scientists found a system of ridges or mountains in
the seafloor similar to those found in the continents.
These are called mid – ocean ridges. One of these is the
famous Mid – Atlantic Ridge, an undersea mountain chain
in the Atlantic Ocean. It has a gigantic cleft about 32 – 48
km long and 1.6 km deep. The ridge is offset by fracture
zones or rift zones or rift valleys.
In the early 1960’s, scientists Harry Hess, together with
Robert Dietz, suggested an explanation to the continental drift. This
is the Seafloor Spreading Theory.


According to this theory, hot, less dense material below the
earth’s crust rises towards the surface at the mid – ocean ridge. This
material flows sideways carrying the seafloor away from the ridge
and creates a crack in the crust. The magma flows out of the crack,
cools down and becomes the new seafloor
Overtime, the new oceanic crust pushed the old oceanic crust
far from the ridge. The process of seafloor spreading allowed the
creation of new bodies of water
In the new place where two oceanic plates collide or where
an oceanic and a continental plate collide, a subduction zone
occurs. As the new seafloor is formed at the mid – ocean ridge, the
old seafloor farthest from the ridge is destroyed at the subduction
The rate of formation of new seafloor is not always as fast
as the destruction of the old seafloor at the subduction zone. If
subduction is faster than seafloor spreading, the ocean shrinks and
when seafloor spreading is greater than the subduction, then the
ocean gets wider.

Findings that support Seafloor Spreading Theory:

1. Rocks are younger at the mid ocean ridge
2. Rocks far from the mid- ocean ridge are older
3. Sediments are thinner at the ridge
4. Rocks at the ocean floor are younger than those at the
Seafloor spreading was strengthened with the discovery that
the magnetic rocks near the ridge follow a pattern aside from the
fact that rocks near the ridge are remarkably younger than those
farther from the ridge.
A magnetic compass tells us the directions on Earth. It also
proves that the Earth has a magnetic field. The needle of the
compass usually points to the North Pole of the Earth which is
actually the South Magnetic pole at present.
The Earth’s magnetic field is generated in the very hot
molten outer core and has already existed since the birth of our
planet. The earth’s magnetic field is a dipole, one that has a North
Pole and a South Pole.
Magnetic Reversal is also called “Magnetic flip” of the
Earth. It happens when the North Pole is transformed into a South
Pole and the South Pole becomes the North Pole. This is due to the
change in the direction of flow in the outer core.
Magnetic reversals happened many times in the past. The
occurrence of magnetic reversals can be explained through the
magnetic patterns in magnetic rocks, especially those found in the
ocean floor.
When lava solidifies, iron bearing minerals crystallize. As
these crystallize, the minerals behave like tiny compasses and align
with the Earth’s magnetic field. So when magnetic reversal occurs,
there is also a change in the polarity of rocks. This allowed
scientists to construct a magnetic polarity time scale.
As a substance like water is heated, the less dense
particles rise while denser particles sink. Once the hot less
dense particles cool down, they sink and the other less dense
particles rise. This continuous process is called convection
current. This is what exactly happens in the Earth’s Mantle.
The hot less dense rising material spreads out in the
upper mantle causing upward and sideward forces. These
forces lift and split the lithosphere at divergent plate
boundaries. The hot magma flows out of the mantle and
cools down to form the new ocean crust.
The downward movement of the convection current
occurs along a convergent boundary where the sinking force
pulls the tectonic plate downward.
As an oceanic crust moves away from a divergent
boundary, it becomes denser than the newer oceanic crust. As
the older seafloor sinks, the weight of the uplifted ridge
pushes the oceanic crust toward the trench at the subduction
zone. This process is called “ridge push”.
Slab pull is the other possible process involved in the
tectonic plate movement. The weight of the subducting plate
pulls the trailing slab into the subduction zone just like a
tablecloth slipping off the table and pulling items with it.