Unknown Explanation? Perplexing Discovery Could Rewrite Earth’s History

Curtin University-led research has found new evidence to suggest that the Earth’s first continents were not formed by subduction in a modern-like plate tectonics environment as previously thought, and instead may have been created by an entirely different process.

Published in the journal Geology, the research team measured the iron and zinc isotopes in rock sourced from central Siberia and South Africa and determined that the composition of these rocks may have formed in a non-subduction environment.

Lead author Dr. Luc-Serge Doucet, from the Earth Dynamics Research Group in Curtin’s School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, said the first continents were formed early in Earth’s history more than three billion years ago, but how they were formed is still open to debate.

“Previous research has suggested that the first supercontinents formed through subduction and plate tectonics, which is when the Earth’s plates move under one another shaping the mountains and oceans,” Dr. Doucet said.

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