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Pangaea, with modern continents showing

Pangaea was a supercontinent that existed in the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras. All the continents were once combined into this one area,[1] and allowed animals like the dinosaurs to spread across the planet. The name was first proposed by Alfred Wegener in 1927.[2]


When Pangaea existed, all the continents were joined. The ocean that surrounded this supercontinent was called Panthalassa.


Several supercontinents had formed and split in Earth's history before, and it was those fragments that made up Pangaea. The collision that the continental plates created formed the largest mountain ranges in the history of the Phanerozoic.[3]

Evidence of existenceEdit

Single fossil species have been found on several continents, such as the leaves of Glossopteris. When all the land was part of one continent, trees could spread easily.[4]

More evidence can also be found in the shape and geology of modern continents. The east coast of South America and the west coast of Africa fit into each other, rather like pieces in a puzzle.


Pangaea animation

Animation of the breakup of Pangaea. Click to play.

During the Early Jurassic Period, Pangaea rifted into two smaller supercontinents, Laurasia and Gondwana. This gradually created the Atlantic Ocean.[5]


  1. Wegener, Alfred (6 January 1912), "Die Herausbildung der Grossformen der Erdrinde (Kontinente und Ozeane), auf geophysikalischer Grundlage", Petermanns Geographische Mitteilungen 63: 185–195, 253–256, 305–309,
  2. cf. Willem A. J. M. van Waterschoot van der Gracht (and 13 other authors): Theory of Continental Drift: a Symposium of the Origin and Movements of Land-masses of both Inter-Continental and Intra-Continental, as proposed by Alfred Wegener. X + 240 S., Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA, The American Association of Petroleum Geologists & London, Thomas Murby & Co, 1928.
  3. Cocks L.R.M. & Torsvik T.H. 2006. European geography in a global context from the Vendian to the end of the Palaeozoic in: Gee D.G. & Stephenson R.A. (eds) European lithosphere dynamics, Geological Society of London Memoirs 32, pp. 83–95.
  4. McLoughlin, S., Lindström, S. & Drinnan, A.N. 1997. Gondwanan floristic and sedimentological trends during the Permian-Triassic transition: new evidence from the Amery Group, northern Prince Charles Mountains, East Antarctica. Antarctic Science, 9: 281-298.
  5. Zeeya Merali, Brian J. Skinner, Visualizing Earth Science, Wiley, ISBN 978-0470-41847-5
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