Once upon a time, South America lived harmoniously alongside Africa until a crack in the Earth drove the two continents apart.


This breakup began about 200 million years ago during the separation of the supercontinent known as Pangaea.

这次分裂发生在大约 2 亿年前当时被称为泛大陆的超级大陆开始分裂

Their proximity back then explains why the same plant fossils and reptile fossils, like the Mesosaurus, can be found on the South American east coast and African west coast.


However, this evidence does not account for how the continents moved apart.

然而, 这个证据无法解释大陆是如何分离的

For that, we’ll need to take a close look at the earth below our feet.

因此, 我们需要更加仔细地看看我们脚下的地球

Though you may not realize it, the ground below you is traveling across the Earth at a rate of about 10 cm/year, or the speed at which your fingernails grow.

虽然你可能没有意识到但你脚下的陆地 正在地球上漂移大约以每年十厘米的速度漂移也就是你指甲生长的速度

This is due to plate tectonics, or the large-scale movement of Earth’s continents.


The motion occurs within the top two layers of the Earth’s mantle, the lithosphere and asthenosphere.


The lithosphere, which includes the crust and uppermost mantle, comprises the land around you.


Beneath the lithosphere is the asthenosphere the highly viscous but solid rock portion of the upper mantle.


It’s between 80 and 200 km below the Earth’s surface.


While the asthenosphere wraps around the Earth’s core as one connected region, the lithosphere is separated on top into tectonic plates.


There are seven primary tectonic plates that compose the shape of the planet we know today.

如今我们知道 地球表面是由七个主要板块构成的

Like the other smaller tectonic plates, the primary plates are about 100 km thick and are composed of one or two layers: continental crust and oceanic crust.


Continental crust forms the continents and areas of shallow water close to their shores, whereas oceanic crust forms the ocean basins.


The transition from the granitic continental crust to the basaltic oceanic crust occurs beyond the continentel shelf, in which the shore suddenly slopes down towards the ocean floor.

从花岗岩的陆壳到玄武岩质的洋壳的转变发生在大陆架以外的地方在那里 海岸骤然下降到洋底

The South American Plate is an example of a tectonic plate made of two crusts: the continent we know from today’s map and a large region of the Atlantic Ocean around it.

南美洲板块就是这样一个由陆壳和洋壳构成板块的例子:我们从如今的地图中知道, 它由南美洲大陆和周围大部分的大西洋地区组成

Collectively comprising the lithosphere, these plates are brittler and stiffer than the heated, malleable layer of the asthenosphere below.


Because of this, the tectonic plates float on top of this layer, independently of one another.


The speed and direction in which these tectonic plates move depends on the temperature and pressure of the asthenosphere below.


Scientists are still trying to nail down the driving forces behind this movement, with some theories pointing towards mantle convection, while others are examining the influence of the Earth’s rotation and gravitational pull.


Though the mechanics have not been sorted out, the scientific community agrees that our tectonic plates are moving and have been for billions of years.


Because these plates move independently, a fair amount of pushing and pulling between the plates occurs.


The first type of interaction is a divergent boundary, in which two plates move away from one another.

其中第一种相互作用是分离型板块边界两个构造板块 向相反方向背离运动

We see this in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge between South America and Africa.

比如 南美洲和非洲之间的大西洋洋中脊就是这样

The next interaction is when two plates collide, known as a convergent boundary.

第二种相互作用类型是板块碰撞被称为 汇聚型板块边界

In this instance, the land is pushed upward to form large mountain ranges, like the Himalayas.

在这个例子中, 陆地被抬升形成大山脉比如喜马拉雅山

In fact, the Indian Plate is still colliding with the Eurasian Plate, which is why Mount Everest grows one cm/year.

事实上, 印度板块与欧亚板块至今仍在对撞这就是为什么珠穆朗玛峰每年升高一厘米

Finally, there’s the transform boundaries, where two plates scrape past one another.

最后一种类型, 是转换型板块边界两个板块在水平方向相对滑动

The grinding of the transform boundary leads to many earthquakes, which is what happens in the 810 mile-long San Andreas Fault.

这种转换型边界的摩擦造成了地震的频发这就是发生在810 英里长的圣安德烈斯断层中的情况

The moving Earth is unstoppable, and, while a shift of 10 cm/year may not seem like a lot, over millions of years our planet will continue to dramatically change.

地球的运动是不可阻挡的虽然每年移动十厘米 看起来不大而我们星球数百万年来的持续运动将带来沧海桑田的变化

Mountains will rise, shorelines will recede, islands will pop up.


In fact, one projected map shows the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco on top of each other.

事实上, 一幅预期的地图显示洛杉矶和旧金山两个城市彼此将十分靠近

Maybe South America and Africa will come together again, too.


Only time will tell.