Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Geologists Find New Origins of Appalachian Mountains

20.11.2006
Geologists have developed a new theory to explain how and when the Appalachian Mountain range was created. Their research redraws the map of the planet from 420 million years ago.

The scientists recently discovered a piece of the Appalachian Mountains in southern Mexico, a location geologists long had assumed was part of the North American Cordillera. The Cordillera is a continuous sequence of mountain ranges that includes the Rocky Mountains. It stretches from Alaska to Mexico and continues into South America.

For the past decade, geologists have collected information from Mexico’s Acatlán Complex, a rock outcropping the size of Massachusetts. As they uncovered each new piece of data from the complex, evidence contradicting earlier assumptions about the origins of that part of Mexico emerged.

“It was a story that had the Appalachians written all over it,” said Damian Nance, Ohio University professor of geological sciences and lead author of an article detailing the findings, which was published in the October issue of Geology. “This will change the way geologists look at Mexico.”

It also changes existing theory regarding the creation of the Appalachians, which has radically altered scientists’ understanding of the planet’s geography, said Nance. Age data, newly unearthed fossils and chemical analysis of the rocks show that the complex is much younger than previously thought. It records a pivotal part of the Appalachian story not preserved elsewhere.

According to the conventional map of 420 million years ago, two main land masses were separated by the Rheic Ocean. In the south sat Gondwana, a supercontinent consisting of South America, Africa, India, Australia and Antarctica. To the north was Laurussia, made up of North America, Greenland, Europe and part of Asia. The old map showed the Acátlan Complex attached to Laurussia. The complex broke off Gondwana about 80 million years earlier, drifted toward North America along with the other land masses, closing an older ocean, known as the Iapetus Ocean, as it did so. The collision created the Appalachian Mountains.

The new map looks rather different.

Evidence collected by Nance and his colleagues from rocks in the Acatlán Complex shows that its collision with Laurussia actually occurred about 120 million years later. The rocks once existed on an ancient ocean floor, but this ocean has proven to be the Rheic, not Iapetus as previously thought.

The explanation, Nance and his fellow authors say, is that the Acatlán Complex was originally attached to Gondwana. Gondwana and the complex eventually slammed into North America, closing the Rheic Ocean in the process. This cataclysmic crunch of continental plates formed the goliath land mass known as Pangea, Nance said, and created the Appalachian Mountains.

“We believe we have found the missing piece of the Rheic suture where Gondwana and North America converged,” said Nance. “All the evidence point to that and, as far as we know, it is the best preserved piece of this puzzle in North America.”

Now geologists from around the world, funded by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), are expanding the search for evidence of the Rheic Ocean in order to unravel its history from initial opening to final closure.

“We want to see if the ocean opened and closed everywhere at the same time or at different times like a jaw opening and closing. We want to understand the mechanics of these processes,” said Nance.

The Acatlán Complex study was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada, the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science and a Mexican Papiit Grant.

Brent V. Miller of Texas A&M University, J. Duncan Keppie of Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, J. Brendan Murphy of St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia and Jaroslav Dostal of St. Mary’s University in Nova Scotia co-authored the paper appearing in Geology.

Andrea Gibson | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ohio.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Improved monitoring of coral reefs with the HyperDiver
24.08.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für marine Mikrobiologie

nachricht Hidden river once flowed beneath Antarctic ice
22.08.2017 | Rice University

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

What the world's tiniest 'monster truck' reveals

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Treating arthritis with algae

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Witnessing turbulent motion in the atmosphere of a distant star

23.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>