Encyclopedia of Solid Earth Geophysics

Living Edition
| Editors: Harsh K. Gupta

Plates and Paleoreconstructions

  • Alan G. SmithEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-10475-7_170-1


The lithosphere is the outer rigid part of the Earth, forming a shell whose thickness may range up to about 200 km.

A tectonic plate is a part of the Earth’s lithosphere that is bounded by active plate margins.

A present-day plate margin is a seismically active zone that cuts the lithosphere.

Conservative plate boundaries are plate boundaries that separate two plates that are sliding past one another along a transform fault (which must cut the lithosphere). Divergent (extensional) plate boundaries mark where the two plates are separating from one another, generally forming passive (or Atlantic) continental margins (though extension can also occur behind island arcs).

Convergent plate boundaries are located between a converging oceanic and continental plate forming an active (Pacific) continental margin, or between a converging oceanic plate and an island arc.

A global paleoreconstructionshows a reassembly of the major continents (and oceans) relative to one another at some...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK