New data refine the travels of Gondwana



[1] The supercontinent Pangea, which existed roughly 300–200 million years ago as the only landmass on Earth, plays a special role in the history of geophysics. The geological, biological, and paleontological similarities between now distant shores—once connected in Pangea—gave the first evidence for the theory of continental drift. That Pangea came apart to form the modern world is well established, but exactly how, when, and where the individual plates moved are still up for debate. Drawing on new high-quality paleomagnetic data, Domeier et al. describe the movements of Gondwana that, until its separation from Laurasia 200 million years ago, formed the southern half of Pangea. The authors collected samples drawn from the Sierra Chica, a band of ancient volcanic rocks in central Argentina. Within the samples the magnetic minerals hematite and titanomagnetite were used to calculate the geographic location of the magnetic pole 263 million years ago. Because the Earth's magnetic poles drift only slightly over time and have well-known reversal episodes, deviations in the location of the calculated pole (paleopole) from the present location are an indication that the plate underlying the volcanic rock has moved since the lava solidified. Changes in the paleopole drawn from samples of different ages from the same plate give a map for the plate's movement. (Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, doi:10.1029/2011GC003616, 2011)