What Is the Continental Drift Theory?
Long ago there was only one continent on earth, a huge super-continent which geologists now call “Pangaea,” a Greek word meaning “all lands.” Some 200 million years ago, Pangaea began to break apart, like pieces in a giant jigsaw puzzle.
The pieces slowly drifted away, floating on top of the supporting mantle. Over many millions of years, the pieces became our present-day continents.
This movement, which continues even today, is called continental drift. You don’t feel the movement of the continents because they drift very slowly – at the rate of about one inch a year.
Today, scientists think that several supercontinents like Pangaea have formed and broken up over the course of the Earth’s lifespan. These include Pannotia, which formed about 600 million years ago, and Rodinia, which existed more than a billion years ago.
Continental drift describes one of the earliest ways geologists thought continents moved over time. Today, the theory of continental drift has been replaced by the science of plate tectonics. The plates are always moving and interacting in this process.