A new study suggests that plate tectonics—a scientific theory that divides the earth into large chunks of crust that move slowly over hot viscous mantle rock—could have been active from the planet’s very beginning. The new findings defy previous beliefs that tectonic plates were developed over the course of billions of years.
“Plate tectonics set up the conditions for life,” said Nick Dygert, assistant professor of petrology and geochemistry in UT’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and coauthor of the study. “The more we know about ancient plate tectonics, the better we can understand how Earth got to be the way it is now.”
The paper, published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, has important implications in the fields of geochemistry and geophysics. For example, a better understanding of plate tectonics could help predict whether planets beyond our solar system could be hospitable to life.