Geologists correct a rift in Africa
The huge changes in the Earth’s crust that influenced human evolution are being redefined, according to research published today in Nature Geoscience.
The Great Rift Valley of East Africa – the birthplace of the human species – may have taken much longer to develop than previously believed.
"We now believe that the western portion of the rift formed about 25 million years ago, and is approximately as old as the eastern part, instead of much younger as other studies have maintained,” said Michael Gottfried, Michigan State University associate professor of geological sciences. “The significance is that the Rift Valley is the setting for the most crucial steps in primate and ultimately human evolution, and our study has major implications for the environmental and landscape changes that form the backdrop for that evolutionary story.”
Gottfried worked with an international team led by Eric Roberts at Australia’s James Cook University who added that the findings have important implications for understanding climate change models, animal evolution and the development of Africa’s unique landscape.
The Rukwa Rift (a segment of the western branch) is an example of a divergent plate boundary, where the Earth’s tectonic forces are pulling plates apart and creating new continental crust. The East African Rift system is composed of two main segments: the eastern branch that passes through Ethiopia and Kenya, and a western branch that forms a giant arc from Uganda to Malawi, interconnecting the famous rift lakes of eastern Africa.
Traditionally, the eastern branch is considered much older, having developed 15 to 25 million years earlier than the western branch.
This study provides new evidence that the two rift segments developed at about the same time, nearly doubling the initiation age of the western branch and the timing of uplift in this region of East Africa.
“A key piece of evidence in this study is the discovery of approximately 25 million-year-old lake and river deposits in the Rukwa Rift that preserve abundant volcanic ash and vertebrate fossils,” Roberts said.
These deposits include some of the earliest anthropoid primates yet found in the rift, added Nancy Stevens of Ohio University.
The findings imply that around 25 to 30 million years ago, the broad uplift of East Africa occurred and re-arranged the flow of large rivers such as the Congo and the Nile to create the distinct landscapes and climates that mark Africa today.
Michigan State University has been working to advance the common good in uncommon ways for more than 150 years. One of the top research universities in the world, MSU focuses its vast resources on creating solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges, while providing life-changing opportunities to a diverse and inclusive academic community through more than 200 programs of study in 17 degree-granting colleges.
Layne Cameron | EurekAlert!
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...