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Home - Planet - Concepts - Continental drift


NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio
C. R. Scotese (U. Texas at Arlington), PALEOMAP

His observations included the shape of the continents, particularly the complementarity between Eastern South America and Western South Africa, the distribution of coal deposits in eastern North America and Europe and the distribution of related reptile fossils separated by oceans. His theory was greeted with scepticism by most scientists of his time. However, developments in the sciences of geology and paeleo-magnetology in the 1950s and 1960s confirmed his ideas. Wegener’s hypothesis was accepted 20 years after his death.

The dynamics of the continents, travelling above their plates, has helped explain many aspects of the distribution of plants and animals in the world. For example, the movement of the Caribbean Plate, from west to east across the North American and South American plates, allowed some animals, such as small todies (Todus spp.) and coquí frogs (Eleutherodactylus), to enter and now form part of the fauna of the Antilles (front of the plate). At the same time, the back of the plate formed a bridge (Central America) between North and South America allowing a faunal exchange of marsupial and placental mammals.

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