Plate tectonic surprise: Geologist unexpectedly finds remnants of a lost mega-plate


Utrecht University geologist Suzanna van de Lagemaat has reconstructed a massive and previously unknown tectonic plate that was once one-quarter the size of the Pacific Ocean. Her colleagues in Utrecht had predicted its existence over 10 years ago based on fragments of old tectonic plates found deep in the Earth’s mantle.

Van de Lagemaat reconstructed lost plates through field research and detailed investigations of the mountain belts of Japan, Borneo, the Philippines, New Guinea, and New Zealand.

To her surprise, she found that oceanic remnants on northern Borneo must have belonged to the long-suspected plate, which scientists have named Pontus. She has now reconstructed the entire plate in its full glory. Suzanna van de Lagemaat will defend her dissertation on this plate tectonics puzzle at Utrecht University on Friday, October 13.

Understanding the movements of the tectonic plates that make up the earth’s rigid outer shell is essential to understand the planet’s geological history.

The movements of these plates strongly influenced how the planet’s paleogeography and climate have changed over time, and even where to find rare metals.

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