Abstract

A half-century has passed since the dawning of the plate tectonic revolution, and yet, with rare exception, palaeogeographic models of pre-Jurassic time are still constructed in a way more akin to Wegener's paradigm of continental drift. Historically, this was due to a series of problems – the near-complete absence of in situ oceanic lithosphere older than 200 Ma, a fragmentary history of the latitudinal drift of continents, unconstrained longitudes, unsettled geodynamic concepts and a lack of efficient plate modelling tools – which together precluded the construction of plate tectonic models. But over the course of the last five decades strategies have been developed to overcome these problems, and the first plate model for pre-Jurassic time was presented in 2002. Following on that pioneering work, but with a number of significant improvements (most notably longitude control), we here provide a recipe for the construction of full-plate models (including oceanic lithosphere) for pre-Jurassic time. In brief, our workflow begins with the erection of a traditional (or ‘Wegenerian’) continental rotation model, but then employs basic plate tectonic principles and continental geology to enable reconstruction of former plate boundaries, and thus the resurrection of lost oceanic lithosphere. Full-plate models can yield a range of testable predictions that can be used to critically evaluate them, but also novel information regarding long-term processes that we have few (or no) alternative means of investigating, thus providing exceptionally fertile ground for new exploration and discovery.

You do not currently have access to this article.