Plate tectonics are 3.6 billion years old, oldest minerals on Earth reveal | Live Science

 

Earth’s tectonic plates have moved continuously since they emerged a whopping 3.6 billion years ago, according to a new study on some of the world’s oldest crystals. Previously, researchers thought that these plates formed anywhere from 3.5 billion to 3 billion years ago, and yet-to-be published research even estimated that the plates are 3.7 billion years old.

The scientists on the new study discovered the onset date of plate tectonics by analyzing ancient zircon crystals from the Jack Hills in Western Australia. Some of the zircons date to 4.3 billion years ago, meaning they existed when Earth was a mere 200 million years old — a baby, geologically speaking. Researchers used these zircons, as well as younger ones dating to 3 billion years ago, to decipher the planet’s ongoing chemical record.

“We are reconstructing how the Earth changed from a molten ball of rock and metal to what we have today,” study lead researcher Michael Ackerson, a research geologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., said in a statement.

Source: Plate tectonics are 3.6 billion years old, oldest minerals on Earth reveal | Live Science

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