Pangaea: Facts About Pangaea the Most Recent Supercontinent

Pangaea was a supercontinent that existed during the late Paleozoic and early Mesozoic eras.

It assembled from earlier continental units approximately 335 million years ago, and it began to break apart about 175 million years ago. In contrast to the present Earth and its distribution of continental mass, much of Pangaea was in the southern hemisphere and surrounded by a superocean, Panthalassa.

Pangaea formed through a gradual process spanning a few hundred million years. Beginning about 480 million years ago, a continent called Laurentia, which includes parts of North America, merged with several other micro-continents to form Euramerica. Euramerica eventually collided with Gondwana, another supercontinent that included Africa, Australia, South America and the Indian subcontinent.

Pangaea: Facts About Pangaea
Facts About Pangaea the Most Recent Supercontinent

Pangaea is not the only supercontinent that has existed in Earth's history. There have been several other supercontinents over the past 4 billion years, including Rodinia, Nuna, and Columbia. Pangaea was the most recent supercontinent to have existed and the first to be reconstructed by geologists.

The name "Pangaea/Pangea" is derived from Ancient Greek pan (πᾶν, "all, entire, whole") and Gaia (Γαῖα, "Mother Earth, land")

Pangaea was surrounded by a single superocean called Panthalassa. This superocean was much larger than any of the oceans that we have today.

Evidence for the existence of Pangaea comes from a variety of sources, including the distribution of fossils, rocks, and mountain ranges. For example, scientists have found fossils of the same plant and animal species on continents that are now widely separated, such as North America and South America. This suggests that these continents were once connected together.

Pangaea: Facts About Pangaea
The distribution of fossils across the continents is one line of evidence pointing to the existence of Pangaea.

Pangaea was much warmer and drier than the Earth is today. The climate of Pangaea was also much more uniform, with fewer extremes of temperature and precipitation. This was due to the fact that there was less land-sea contrast, as all of the continents were connected together.

Pangaea formed through a process called plate tectonics. Plate tectonics is the theory that the Earth's crust is made up of a number of plates that are constantly moving. Over time, these plates can collide, separate, or slide past each other. This movement can cause mountains to form, volcanoes to erupt, and continents to drift apart.

Pangaea broke apart due to plate tectonics as well. As the plates moved, they pushed and pulled on each other, eventually causing Pangaea to split into the continents that we know today. There were three major phases in the break-up of Pangaea.

What can also be observed in relation to tectonic plates and Pangaea, is the formations to such plates. Mountains and valleys form due to tectonic collisions as well as earthquakes and chasms. Consequentially, this shaped Pangaea and animal adaptations.

The breakup of Pangaea had a major impact on the Earth's climate and plant and animal life. For example, the creation of new oceans changed the patterns of global circulation, which led to changes in temperature and precipitation. This caused some plants and animals to go extinct, and it also led to the evolution of new species.

The creation of the new ocean that caused a circumpolar current eventually led to atmospheric currents that rotated from west to east. Atmospheric and oceanic currents stopped the transfer of warm, tropical air and water to the higher latitudes.

There is evidence to suggest that the deterioration of northern Pangaea contributed to the Permian Extinction, one of Earth’s five major mass extinction events, which resulted in the loss of over 90% of marine and 70% of terrestrial species.

Scientists believe that the next supercontinent will form in about 250 million years. This supercontinent is likely to be called Amasia.

See also: 
What Pangea Would Look Like With Our Current International Border
The Largest Insect Ever Existed Was a Giant "Dragonfly"
10 Interesting Facts About the Geological Time Scale
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