Continental margins can be classified according to their stages of development as judged from published continuous seismic reflection profiles. Mapping of the stages of initial, youth, maturity, and old age (= destruction) shows that their distributions are related to plate movements and to sediment supply. The main information gaps are in the Arctic Sea, off Antarctica, in the open Indian Ocean, and along parts of eastern Asia. Even in these regions the stages of development can be inferred from related regions having available profiles and from general knowledge of the topography and structure. The distribution for the entire earth is about 6% initial, 48% youth, 25% maturity, and 21% old age. Best petroleum prospects are believed to be mature margins and thick basin fills within youthful margins.

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