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Precambrian Continents

There is evidence for the early continents in cratons; scientists trace plate tectonics from early in Earth history through the formation of supercontinents, including Rodinia.

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Birth of Plate Tectonics

Birth of Plate Tectonics


Credit: John Goodge
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rodinia_reconstruction.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Rodinia was the supercontinent before Pangaea. This supercontinent was probably not the first. Rocks dating from 1.1 billion years ago show how the continents were joined into this supercontinent.

Amazing But True!

  • Modern plate tectonics probably began about 3.2 billion years ago.
  • Some continents formed by 3.6 billion years ago.
  • Earlier continents came together and apart by plate tectonics processes.
  • As happens today, the plates moved due to mantle convection.

Show What You Know

With the links below, learn more about early plate tectonics. Then answer the following questions.

  1. What are two reasons why studying the oldest rocks of Greenland help with understanding early plate tectonics?
  2. What probably came before modern plate tectonics?
  3. What happened as the mantle cooled and stable convection cells formed?
  4. What is Rodinia? How did it form?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: John Goodge; Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rodinia_reconstruction.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0


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