Pangaea, the ancient super-continent

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Pangaea (also called Pangea) may not have been the first ‘super-continent’ but it is perhaps the most significant, as it played a major part in the distribution and evolution of all forms of life on the planet. It was formed about 300 million years ago by the slow movement of the earth’s surface plates which shoved the continents together, and broke up 200 million years ago for the same reason. It was surrounded by a super ocean called Panthalassa.

Pangaea (also called Pangea) was first suggested in 1912 by Alfred Wegener, who had noticed that the coastlines of different continents seem to match up like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle – cut a map and see for yourself! South America slots into Africa, and North America, if tilted a bit, fits next to Europe. Wegener’s idea was supported by fossil evidence where the same species of plants and animals were found in different places. There was no way that could happen unless the two places had once been connected.

Scientists have tried to discover what the climate would have been like on Pangaea (also called Pangea). They supposed that there might have been quite a lot of desert as there was a large mountain ridge which surrounded the interior of the continent and may have prevented rainfall drifting in from the coast. This ridge of mountains is now split over the many modern continents and includes the Appalacians in America and the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. However, after examining coal deposits across Europe, they discovered that the central area was actually a lush and fertile rainforest-style climate.

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