An embryonic rift valley in Botswana, the southwestern extension of the East African Rift System, where some of the earliest hominids have been discovered, may also hold answers to continental breakup, according to a University of Missouri-Rolla geologist who is studying how the rift has formed.
“This rift will provide us with an early snapshot of how continental rifting all begins,” says Dr. Estella Atekwana, an associate professor of geology and geophysics at UMR. The study of rift basins could help scientists better understand the initial stages of continental breakup, she says.
Atekwana’s research into tectonic plate processes in Botswana’s East African Rift “will broaden our understanding of the earliest stages of passive margin development, or continental separation -- a missing link in the study of early rifting processes.” The sediment trapped in the basin offers clues to humanity’s past, she says.
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