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Reconstructions based on biogeography, palaeomagnetism and facies distributions indicate that, in later Palaeozoic time, there were no wide oceans separating the major continents. During the Silurian and Early Devonian time, many oceans became narrower so that only the less mobile animals and plants remained distinct. There were several continental collisions: the Tornquist Sea (between Baltica and Avalonia) closed in Late Ordovician time, the Iapetus Ocean (between Laurentia and the newly merged continents of Baltica and Avalonia) closed in Silurian time, and the Rheic Ocean (between Avalonia and Gondwana and the separate parts of the Armorican Terrane Assemblage) closed (at least partially) towards the end of Early Devonian time. Each of these closures was reflected by migrations of non-marine plants and animals as well as by contemporary deformation. New maps, based on palaeomagnetic and faunal data, indicate that Gondwana was close to Laurussia during the Devonian and Carboniferous periods, with fragments of Bohemia and other parts of the Armorican Terrane Assemblage interspersed between. It follows that, after Early Devonian time, the Variscan oceans of central Europe can never have been very wide. The tectonic evolution of Europe during Devonian and Carboniferous time was thus more comparable with the present-day Mediterranean Sea than with the Pacific Ocean.

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