The African continental divide: Indian versus Atlantic Ocean spreading during Gondwana dispersal
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AbstractIt is well established that plate-tectonic processes operate on a global scale and that spatially separate but temporally coincident events may be linked. However, identifying such links in the geological record and understanding the mechanisms involved remain speculative. This is particularly acute during major geodynamic events, such as the dispersal of supercontinents, where multiple axes of breakup may be present as well as coincidental collisional events. To explore this aspect of plate tectonics, we present a detailed analysis of the temporal variation in the mean half rate of seafloor spreading in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, as well as plate-kinematic attributes extracted from global plate-tectonic models during the dispersal of Gondwana since ca. 200 Ma. Our analysis shows that during the ~20 m.y. prior to collision between India and Asia at ca. 55 Ma, there was an increase in the mean rate of seafloor spreading in the Indian Ocean. This manifests as India rapidly accelerating toward Asia. This event was then followed by a prompt deceleration in the mean rate of Indian Ocean seafloor spreading after India collided with Asia at ca. 55 Ma. Since inception, the mean rate of seafloor spreading in the Indian Ocean has been generally greater than that in the Atlantic Ocean, and the period of fastest mean half spreading rate in the Indian Ocean was coincident with a slowdown in mean half seafloor spreading rate in the competing Atlantic Ocean. We hypothesize that faster and hotter seafloor spreading in the Indian Ocean resulted in larger ridge-push forces, which were transmitted through the African plate, leading to a slowdown in Atlantic Ocean spreading. Following collision between India and Asia, and a slowdown of Indian Ocean spreading, Atlantic spreading rates consequently increased again. We conclude that the processes in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans have likely remained coupled throughout their existence, that their individual evolution has influenced each other, and that, more generally, spreading in one basin inevitably influences proximal regions. While we do not believe that ridge push is the main cause of plate motions, we consider it to have played a role in the coupling of the kinematic evolution of these oceans. The implication of this observation is that interaction and competition between nascent ocean basins and ridges during supercontinent dispersal exert a significant control on resultant continental configuration.
CitationPeace, A., L., and Phethean, J. (2022). 'The African continental divide: Indian versus Atlantic Ocean spreading during Gondwana dispersal'. In Foulger, G., R., Hamilton, L., C., Jurdy, D., M., Stein, C., A., Howard, K., A., and Stein, S. (Eds.). 'In the Footsteps of Warren B. Hamilton: New Ideas in Earth Science'. Boulder, Colorado: Geological Society of America, pp. 1-10.
PublisherGeological Society of America
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