Continental drift is a historical, scientific theory. The theory was first proposed by Abraham Ortelius in 1596. It was fully developed by the German geologist and meteorologist Alfred Wegener in 1915.
Evidence[change | change source]
The theory was supported by finding the same minerals and fossils in western Europe and eastern North America. There are also similar fossils on the western coast of Africa and the eastern South America. The shapes of these continents nearly fit together. The theory was plausible (believable), but there was no known mechanism to drive these great movements. This problem was later solved by plate tectonics.
Examples (there are hundreds):
- Fossils of the fern Glossopteris are found in rocks from Australia, South America, Antarctica, India, Africa and Madagascar. These were all together in the supercontinent Gondwana, after the global continent Pangaea broke up.
- Table Mountain at the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, and mountains south of Rio de Janeiro are made of identical rocks. This corresponds to the fit of Africa with South America in Pangaea.
- The Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland, and Fingal's Cave on Staffa, Inner Hebrides, Scotland is the same rock formation.
Mechanism[change | change source]
Two events in particular are of huge importance:
- The production of new crust at places such as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
- The removal of crust by subduction (moving under) at the points where plates collide.