Supercontinents: myths, mysteries, and milestones
Published:November 11, 2019
Daniel Pastor-Galán, R. Damian Nance, J. Brendan Murphy, Christopher J. Spencer, 2019. "Supercontinents: myths, mysteries, and milestones", Fifty Years of the Wilson Cycle Concept in Plate Tectonics, R. W. Wilson, G. A. Houseman, K. J. W. McCaffrey, A. G. Doré, S. J. H. Buiter
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There is an emerging consensus that Earth's landmasses amalgamate quasi-periodically into supercontinents, interpreted to be rigid super-plates essentially lacking tectonically active inner boundaries and showing little internal lithosphere–mantle interactions. The formation and disruption of supercontinents have been linked to changes in sea-level, biogeochemical cycles, global climate change, continental margin sedimentation, large igneous provinces, deep mantle circulation, outer core dynamics and Earth's magnetic field. If these hypotheses are correct, long-term mantle dynamics and much of the geological record, including the distribution of natural resources, may be largely controlled by these cycles. Despite their potential importance, however, many of these proposed links are, to date, permissive rather than proven. Sufficient data are not yet available to verify or fully understand the implications of the supercontinent cycle. Recent advances in many fields of geoscience provide clear directions for investigating the supercontinent cycle hypothesis and its corollaries but they need to be vigorously pursued if these far-reaching ideas are to be substantiated.
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Fifty Years of the Wilson Cycle Concept in Plate Tectonics
CONTAINS OPEN ACCESS
Fifty years ago, Tuzo Wilson published his paper asking ‘Did the Atlantic close and then re-open?’. This led to the ‘Wilson Cycle’ concept in which the repeated opening and closing of ocean basins along old orogenic belts is a key process in the assembly and breakup of supercontinents. The Wilson Cycle underlies much of what we know about the geological evolution of the Earth and its lithosphere, and will no doubt continue to be developed as we gain more understanding of the physical processes that control mantle convection, plate tectonics, and as more data become available from currently less accessible regions.
This volume includes both thematic and review papers covering various aspects of the Wilson Cycle concept. Thematic sections include: (1) the Classic Wilson v. Supercontinent Cycles, (2) Mantle Dynamics in the Wilson Cycle, (3) Tectonic Inheritance in the Lithosphere, (4) Revisiting Tuzo's question on the Atlantic, (5) Opening and Closing of Oceans, and (6) Cratonic Basins and their place in the Wilson Cycle.