We are all familiar with the current seven continents (eight, if you add Zealandia). But did you know that millions of years ago, Earth did not have these seven continents? Instead, there was only one massive supercontinent that covered nearly one-third of the Earth’s surface and almost all of the Earth’s continents were connected into that one large landmass.
Pangea, the supercontinent that started forming about 300 million years ago was surrounded by only one ocean called the Panthalassa. It is believed that Pangea was fully together by 270 million years ago. However, the supercontinent began to break up about 200 million years ago and the world as we know it today started to take shape.
The Pangea map with all interconnected continents (Source: ebay)
The Formation of the Supercontinent:
Ancient continent Gondwana, which was located near the South Pole, collided with another continent called Euramerican. Following which, the northwestern part of Gondwana and southern part of Euramerican connected together to form one very large landmass.
Eventually, another ancient continent, located near the North Pole called the Angaran Continent, began to move south and about 270 million years ago, it collided with the northern part of the Euramerican continent, forming the large supercontinent, Pangea.
Break-up of the Supercontinent:
Just as Pangea was formed by being pushed together due to the movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates away at the rift zones, a rift of new material caused it to separate. It began to separate due to the mantle convection within the Earth’s surface. In weak areas, magma began to flow and this created a volcanic rift zone. Gradually, the rift zone started to widen and eventually, it grew so large that it formed a basin.
As the supercontinent began to separate, new oceans started to form as Panthalassa began to flow into the newly opened areas. The Southern and the Central Atlantic Oceans were the first new oceans that formed. Around 180 million years ago, the central Atlantic Ocean opened up between North America and northwestern Africa.
About 140 million years ago, a landmass from the west coast of southern Africa got separated which resulted in the formation of South Atlantic Ocean. The landmass that was separated from Southern Africa is now called as South America.
The Indian ocean was the next to form after India got separated from Antarctica and Australia. About 80 million years ago, North America and Europe separated, following which Australia and Antarctica got separated and today they are also regarded as four different continents. Madagascar was initially connected with India, but around 88 million years ago they were separated. Over million more years, these newly formed continents gradually moved to their current positions.
The map of the world from Pangea to modern (Source: sites)
So, have you ever wondered how our world would look like if there was no separation and only one continent the Pangea existed?
Well, thankfully a Reddit user who goes by the name ‘LikeWolvesDo’ has utilised a map of the supercontinent and sketched our current international borders on it. And we must say the result is quite intriguing. Here’s the map of the supercontinent Pangea:
Finally, the map of the world as we know with seven or eight continents will never remain the same as it is today. It will gradually change and there are evidences which prove that the change is underway.
Click here to see the zoom enabled version of the Pangea map.
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Title image: eatrio