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Rodinia Evidence Suggests Supercontinent Linked North America And Antarctica

The Huffington Post    
First Posted: 08/09/11 08:27 PM ET Updated: 10/09/11 06:12 AM ET

Texas, meet Antarctica.

Scientists have found further evidence that North America and East Antarctica were linked 1.1 billion years ago, forming a supercontinent called Rodinia. It would have existed before the more widely know supercontinent of Pangaea had formed. The report is based on the theory that Earth's continents rest on tectonic plates that have shifted over time.

According to a press release from the Geological Society of America, rocks collected in West Texas essentially have the same composition of lead isotopes as those in Coats Land, a region in Antarctica.

Rocks peaking through the snow in Coats Land match those found throughout a rift system in the Midwestern U.S. In theory, these rocks reflect a former continuation of the North American rift system that has been long aborted.

"I can go to the Franklin Mountains in West Texas and stand next to what was once part of Coats Land in Antarctica," said Staci Loewy, a geochemist at California State University, Bakersfield, who led the study. "That's so amazing."

The find gives credence to the theory that North America and East Antarctica were once linked, forming the supercontinent Rodinia, according to UPI. This supports the SWEAT (southwestern United States and East Antarctica) hypothesis.

ScienceDaily writes:

The tiny Coats Land block of Antarctica "is a 'tectonic tracer' providing critical clues to the geographic relationships between three of the major continents of the planet in the time interval 1.1 -- 1.0 billion years ago, just prior to the opening of the Pacific Ocean basin, the hypothesized 'Snowball Earth' glaciations, and the rise of multi-cellular life.

The work will appear in the September issue of the journal Geology.

Can't get enough? Check out this National Geographic video recreation of how Earth was made.

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