The supercontinent cycle: A retrospective essay

  • Nance R
  • Murphy J
  • Santosh M
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Abstract

The recognition that Earth history has been punctuated by supercontinents, the assembly and breakup of which have profoundly influenced the evolution of the geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere, is arguably the most important development in Earth Science since the advent of plate tectonics. But whereas the widespread recognition of the importance of supercontinents is quite recent, the concept of a supercontinent cycle is not new and advocacy of episodicity in tectonic processes predates plate tectonics. In order to give current deliberations on the supercontinent cycle some historical perspective, we trace the development of ideas concerning long-term episodicity in tectonic processes from early views on episodic orogeny and continental crust formation, such as those embodied in the chelogenic cycle, through the first realization that such episodicity was the manifestation of the cyclic assembly and breakup of supercontinents, to the surge in interest in supercontinent reconstructions. We then chronicle some of the key contributions that led to the cycle's widespread recognition and the rapidly expanding developments of the past ten years. © 2013 International Association for Gondwana Research.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Biosphere
  • Geosphere
  • Plate tectonics
  • Solid Earth
  • Supercontinent cycle

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