Supercontinents and the case for Pannotia
Published:November 11, 2019
R. Damian Nance, J. Brendan Murphy, 2019. "Supercontinents and the case for Pannotia", 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
Download citation file:
Disagreement about the existence of the late Neoproterozoic supercontinent Pannotia highlights the limitation of defining supercontinents simply on the basis of size, which, for pre-Pangaean supercontinents, is difficult to determine. In the context of the supercontinent cycle, however, supercontinent assembly and break-up, respectively, mark the end of one cycle and the beginning of the next and can be recognized by the tectonic, climatic and biogeochemical trends that accompany them. Hence supercontinents need only be large enough to influence mantle circulation in such a way as to enable the cycle to repeat. Their recognition need not rely solely on continental reconstructions, but can also exploit a variety of secular trends that accompany their amalgamation and break-up. Although the palaeogeographical and age constraints for the existence of Pannotia remain equivocal, the proxy signals of supercontinent assembly and break-up in the late Neoproterozoic are unmistakable. These signals cannot be readily attributed to either the break-up of Rodinia or the assembly of Gondwana without ignoring either the assembly phase of Pan-African orogenesis and the changes in mantle circulation that accompany this phase, or the reality that Gondwana cannot be a supercontinent in the context of the supercontinent cycle because its break-up coincides with that of Pangaea.
Figures & Tables
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.