Mystery now surrounds the formation of the Earth’s first continents.
It was thought they were formed by tectonic plates moving under one another, a process known as subduction, but new research suggests otherwise.
Researchers from Curtin University became suspicious of the theory after examining the composition of rocks.
“Our research found that the chemical makeup of the rock fragments was not consistent with what we would usually see when subduction occurs.
“If the continents were formed through subduction and plate tectonics we would expect the ratio of iron and zinc isotopes to be either very high or very low, but our analysis instead found the ratio of isotopes was similar to that found in non-subduction rocks,” said lead author Dr Luc-Serge Doucet.
This means that we’ll need a new theory as to how the Earth’s continents were formed more than three billion years ago.
“Further research will be needed to determine what the unknown explanation is,” Dr Doucet said.
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