No, someone didn’t pick up a section of the Grand Canyon and drop it off in Australia. That would be illogical and cumbersome.
Instead, it turns out the famous natural wonder of the world has a twin living down under, and they were separated at birth.
Geologists from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, have discovered an ancient connection between rocks in Tasmania, with those in the Grand Canyon, Arizona, US, and new research has confirmed their link.
Chemical testing has revealed the rocks contain minerals with identical geochemical fingerprints, meaning, at one point in history, they were connected, and formed part of the same piece of land.
In a paper published in Geology, the researchers analysed a number of rocks from Tasmania which, according to lead author Jack Mulder, have always looked out of place.
Their suspicions were confirmed, when tests on stratigraphy, depositional age and isotope compositions revealed the Australian rocks were identical to those found in Arizona.
Speaking to New Scientist, geologist Jack Mulder said:
We concluded that although it’s now on the opposite side of the planet, Tasmania must have been attached to the western United States.
The findings could mean major implications in the world of geology.
At the moment, the planet is split into seven continents – Asia, Africa, North America, South American, Antarctica, Europe and Australia. However, it wasn’t always this way, and some people believe it won’t stay like this either.
In fact, scientists reckon the continents will all re-join one day, probably in the next 50 million to 200 million years, to form another ‘supercontinent’ called Amasia, as IFLScience! reports.
The Earth has been made up of supercontinents before, the most recent being Pangaea, which existed up until around 175 million years ago when it started to break up.
Before Pangaea, there was Rodinia, which existed around 1.3 billion to 750 million years ago. Rodinia broke up during a period of extreme global cooling but, unlike Pangaea, scientists have not yet uncovered how the land masses were connected.
The discovery of the link between the Grand Canyon and Australia could go some way to solve the riddle, as it proves around 1.1 billion years ago, Australia was connected to the west coast of North America.
Alan Collins, a professor of sciences at the University of Adelaide, Australia, believes the new discovery in Tasmania ‘holds the key’ to piecing together how our planet came to be as we know it now.
Earth is the only planet in our Solar System known to have tectonic plates, which move independently from one another. Other planets usually have a solid shell-like surface, which is not in pieces like our own, known as ‘single lid tectonics’.
The formation of plate tectonics on Earth would have caused dramatic changes in the planet’s climate, altering the landscape significantly by shifting the oceans, disturbing the atmosphere, and forming mountains and volcanos in the process.
Currently, the tectonic plates as we know them are still moving, at the same rate our fingernails grow.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.