From Pangaea to the Seven Continents
How Tectonic Plates Will Change The Earth as We Know It
by Dismand Champion, age 9
A large landmass unbroken by sea is called a continent. More than 300 million years ago there was only one continent, known as Pangaea. Since that time, Pangaea has slowly split, creating the seven continents we know today: North America, South America, Asia, Africa, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia. This slow movement of the continents is called the continental drift.
Surprisingly, today’s continents take up 95 percent of Earth’s land. Asia is the largest continent, taking up over 17 million square miles. The smallest continent, only covering about 3 million square miles, is Australia.
All of the land and ocean of the Earth rest upon eight massive tectonic plates that float on melted rock, called magma. As the magma moves, the tectonic plates shift either together or apart. This movement caused Pangaea to split into two continents: Gondwanaland and Laurasia. Sixty-five million years later, these two continents split into the present day seven continents.
Tectonic plates are constantly moving. In 50 million years the continents we know today are expected to shift.
Tectonic plates are a fascinating part of our world. It will be interesting to see what the face of the Earth will look like in the years to come.
[Source: The Kingfisher Children’s Encyclopedia]