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Wegener and the Continental Drift Hypothesis

It was the lack of a plausible mechanism that kept Wegener's colleagues from accepting his continental drift hypothesis.

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Down with Dogma-Continents

Down with Dogma-Continents

Credit: Archive of Alfred Wegener Institute
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wegener_Expedition-1930_008.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Plate tectonics is the foundation of Earth Science. Continental drift is at the core of plate tectonics. Yet, no one believed Alfred Wegener when he said continents could move.

Why It Matters

Credit: USGS
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Snider-Pellegrini_Wegener_fossil_map.gif
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Fossil evidence for continental drift [Figure2]

  • Alfred Wegener was a curious and smart scientist. He made important advances in meteorology. He was also an explorer of Greenland.
  • Wegener found a tremendous amount of evidence that the continents had once been joined.
  • Wegener’s could not develop a realistic idea for how the continents could move.
  • Wegener did figure out some of the important concepts that would help lead later lead to the idea of seafloor spreading.

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With the links below, learn more about Alfred Wegener. Then answer the following questions.

  1. What question did Alfred Wegener want to answer?
  2. How did Wegener try to answer this question?
  3. How did the geologists at the time explain how the same fossil animals could be on far-away continents?
  4. What problem did Wegener have with this idea?
  5. What were some of the ideas that Wegener recognized that would lead to seafloor spreading as a mechanism for plate movement?

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Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Archive of Alfred Wegener Institute; Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wegener_Expedition-1930_008.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: USGS; Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Snider-Pellegrini_Wegener_fossil_map.gif; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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