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Study reveals importance of rift orientation in sculpting Africa`s margins

Last Updated: Sunday, March 2, 2014 - 19:40

Washington: Geoscientists have revealed that the break-up of the supercontinent Gondwana about 130 million years ago could have lead to a completely different shape of the African and South American continent with an ocean south of today`s Sahara desert.

The study conducted by geoscientists from the University of Sydney and the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, emphasizes the importance of rift orientation relative to extension direction as key factor deciding whether an ocean basin opens or an aborted rift basin forms in the continental interior.
Using sophisticated plate tectonic and three-dimensional numerical modelling, the geoscientists have found that the supercontinent first split along the East African coast in a western and eastern part before separation of South America from Africa took place.

Christian Heine and Sascha Brune said that in a dramatic plate tectonic twist, a competing rift along the present-day Equatorial Atlantic margins, won over the West African rift, causing it to become extinct, avoiding the break-up of the African continent and the formation of a Saharan Atlantic ocean.

First Published: Sunday, March 2, 2014 - 19:40
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