Mind-Boggling Pangea Facts To Make You Think About Existence | Kidadl


Mind-Boggling Pangea Facts To Make You Think About Existence

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Pangea’s existence was first proposed by German meteorologist Alfred Wegener in 1912, but his theory was rejected.

It was only in the '50s, long after he died in 1930, that several discoveries were made, and his theory was made part of the modern theory of plate tectonics. According to this modern theory, Earth’s surface is made up of several tectonic plates, and it was their movement that led to the formation and breaking up of Pangea.

Origin Of The Concept: Alfred Wegener

Alfred Lothar Wegener was born on November 1, 1880, and was a German meteorologist, geologist, climatologist, geophysicist, and polar researcher. He is mostly remembered as the inventor of the continental drift theory. In 1912, he first introduced people to his revolutionary theory.

According to Wegener, all the present continents were part of a single continental landmass, called Pangea, before it broke apart and drifted away to form multiple continents around 200 million years ago. In 1915, he published a book explaining his theory, but it was not accepted. Instead, he faced criticism from the geological society.

Though he provided evidence in support of his continental drift theory, he failed to elucidate how the plates moved. The evidence he submitted included geological fit, jigsaw fit, glacial deposits, tectonic fit, and fossil evidence. Of those, he mostly based his theory on fossil remains and rocks.

Pangea Formation

Pangea, the ancient supercontinent, existed between the early Mesozoic Era and the Late Paleozoic Era. Its assemblage took place during the Carboniferous Period, over 300 million years ago. A C-shaped continent, Pangea was centered near the equator and was surrounded by the super-ocean Panthalassa, Paleo-Tethys, and then the Tethys oceans. Later, the Neo-Tethys Ocean gradually replaced the Tethys Sea after continental material detached itself from northern Gondwana.

Most of the continental mass that was a part of Pangea stretched between Earth’s southern and northern polar areas. On Pangea’s periphery was a smaller continent, Cathaysia, consisting of the areas of north and south China. Cathaysia was located in the western Panthalassic Ocean and the Paleo-Tethys Ocean's eastern end. These oceans also had several microcontinents, trenches, oceanic plateaus, and island arcs that were later welded onto Pangea’s margins.

The formation of Pangea started with the traces of previous supercontinents like Columbia, Rodinia, and Pannotia, which led to the formation of continents like Baltica, Laurentia, and Gondwana. By the end of the Ordovician Period, Baltica, Laurentia, and another microcontinent, Avalonia, which drifted from Gondwana, collided to form Euramerica or Laurussia.

At that time, Gondwana shifted in the direction of the South Pole, and in the Silurian geologic period, it collided with Euramerica. In the late Carboniferous period, western Kazakhstani and Baltica collided, leading to the formation of the Ural Mountains and the supercontinent of Laurasia. This is often considered the last step involved in the formation of Pangea.

Rifting And Break-up Of Pangea

Pangea rifted majorly into three phases. The first break-up is associated with the opening up of the Atlantic. It happened when Pangea began rifting from the Tethys Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. The rift, around 180 million years ago, led to the formation of the first oceans, the Atlantic in-between North America and north-western Africa and the South-western Indian Ocean in-between Antarctica and Africa.

The second major phase began with a landmass separating from Gondwana and forming several individual continents, like South America, Africa, the Indian subcontinent, Australia, and Antarctica. Around 140 million years ago, the formation of the South Atlantic Ocean took place, with Africa separating from South America. Around that time, India also separated from Australia and Antarctica.

The final phase took place around 80 million years ago when North America separated from Eurasia, leading to the formation of the Norwegian Sea, Australia broke free from Antarctica, and India rifted away from Madagascar. Around 50 million years ago, India collided with Asia, closing the Tethys seaway and forming the Himalayas.

Africa continent on a globe with Earth's map in the background

Life Before And After The Pangea Break-up

During Pangea’s existence, rugose corals, sharks, brachiopods, bryozoans, and the first bony fish were found in the seas. On land, life was found in lycopsid forests, which were inhabited by insects, arthropods, and the first tetrapods.

As several landmasses assembled, it resulted in extensive dry climates in Pangea’s tropics during Permian times. This helped the evolution of seed plants and amniotes. This drying trend was particularly persistent in western Pangea, where the evolution and spread of amniotes began.

This time also saw a reduction in sea coasts and the creation of high mountains that strongly influenced the regional and local terrestrial climates. By the time Pangea rifted, molluscs, sharks, ichthyosaurs, rays, and bony fish dominated life in the seas, and forests of conifers and cycads dominated life on land. It is believed that in these forests, dinosaurs flourished and true mammals first appeared.

By the end of the Permian period, these developments were mainly considered responsible for mass extinction events. The elimination of many shallow-water marine basins at that time meant the destruction of the habitats of several marine invertebrates. It is also believed that the cooling and sinking of the oceanic crust probably diminished the number of islands that were capable of sheltering these marine species. Other possible reasons for mass extinctions could be the mingling of various species after several landmasses came together while navigating climate barriers.


Who discovered Pangea?

According to geological history, Alfred Wegener discovered Pangea.

How long did Pangea last?

After its assemblage, Pangea stayed in that position for around 100 million years before starting to drift apart.

Why is Pangea important?

Pangea holds significance as it was the supercontinent that was in existence after several continents came together before breaking up to form multiple continents, as we see today.

Did humans exist in Pangea?

No, humans did not exist in Pangea, as they came into being only some hundred thousand years ago.

Did dinosaurs live on Pangea?

Yes, dinosaurs lived on Pangea, and it was during their existence that the supercontinent broke apart.

How did Pangea become the seven continents?

With time, the supercontinent Pangea broke apart as the continental plates moved, leading to the emergence of seven continents, namely Africa, Asia, Australia, Antarctica, North America, South America, and Europe.

What ocean was formed when Pangaea broke apart?

The first ocean to form after Pangea started rifting was the central Atlantic Ocean.

How did the break up of Pangea affect life on Earth?

As Pangea broke up, several existing species became extinct, and many more were drifted apart by the formation of oceans and seas. This led to speciation, and new species emerged that were much more adaptive to the new climatic conditions.

What will the next supercontinent be called?

The possible future supercontinent will be called Pangaea Proxima.

How did we know Pangea existed?

The famous geologist Wegener gave several examples substantiating his claims of the existence of a supercontinent called Pangea. One of his examples was the presence of fossils of Mesosaurus, an ancient freshwater reptile found only in South America and southern Africa.

It was not possible for a 3.3 ft (1 m) reptile to swim across an ocean, suggesting only one possibility: that once there was a single habitat with several rivers and lakes. He also identified fossils of plants at Svalbard in Norway that were not typical of those that survive in the freezing climate of the Arctic. In fact, those plants were tropical, meaning they needed a much more humid and warmer environment to grow.

Such findings suggest the drifting of Svalbard from a place having a warm climate. He also studied rock formations and mountains, and matched South America’s east coast with Africa’s west coast, like pieces that fit together in a jigsaw puzzle.

<p>With a wealth of international experience spanning Europe, Africa, North America, and the Middle East, Anusuya brings a unique perspective to her work as a Content Assistant and Content Updating Coordinator. She holds a law degree from India and has practiced law in India and Kuwait. Anusuya is a fan of rap music and enjoys a good cup of coffee in her free time. Currently, she is working on her novel, "Mr. Ivory Merchant".</p>

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