Ancient Rocks Helping Scientists to Know Formation of First Continent on Earth

Ancient Rocks Helping Scientists to Know Formation of First Continent on Earth

Scientists are gaining deep insight into how continents formed on earth by studying rocks from the Northwest Territories. "There's an open and controversial question of when did continents form through time? Looking at some of the oldest rocks in the world we can say something about how those rocks form and how possibly continents were forming early on in Earth's history", said Jesse Reimink, a PhD doctoral candidate.

The rocks are four-billion-years old and scientists have deduced that crust-forming processes are very similar to those occurring in present-day Iceland. This provided first strong evidence to believe that the early earth had a setting similar to modern Iceland, said Jesse Reimink from University of Alberta in Canada.

Reimink, who collected and studied rock samples from the Acasta Gneiss Complex in Canada, said these ancient rocks are undoubtedly the oldest samples of protocontinental crust. There is a very high possibility that these rocks may have helped jump-start the formation of the rest of the continental crust.

Shift in one tectonic plate beneath another into the Earth's mantle cause magma to rise to the surface. This leads to formation of continents today and the process is called subduction.

Reimink said that it has not been figured out yet if plate tectonics existed 2.5 billion to four billion years ago or if another process was contributing.

Experts have given a theory that rise of liquid magma from the earth's mantle before cooling and solidifying into a crust led to the formation of the first continents.

Crust of Iceland formed after magma from the mantle rose to shallow levels, which incorporated previously formed volcanic rocks. Reimink said that this is major reason behind Iceland being considered as a theoretical analogue for continental crust formation on early earth. Findings of the study have been published in the journal Nature Geoscience and concur with the theory.

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