Evidence suggests that part of Australia used to be connected to Canada

Pat Wise
January 23, 2018

After much deliberation, the scientists hypothesize that Georgetown broke away from North America 1.7 billion years ago.

These rocks found around Georgetown, Australia, are made from sediments originally deposited off the coast of present-day Canada.

Curtin University researchers have discovered rocks in northern Queensland that bear striking similarities to those found in North America, suggesting that part of northern Australia was actually part of North America 1.7 billion years ago. And then after 100 million years, the landmass collided with the present day northern Australia at the Mount Isa region.

This led the researchers to posit that the landmass, which now hosts Australia's Georgetown, was once a part of North America.

"This was a critical part of global continental reorganization when nearly all continents on Earth assembled to form the supercontinent called Nuna", co-author Adam Nordsvan, a student at Curtin University's School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, said in the press statement.

The full research project was published in the science journal Geology Friday, Jan. 19, according to the school. About 300 million years ago, the continents assembled to form a famous supercontinent named Pangea, and it also broke apart nearly 175 million years ago. Geologists are still trying to reconstruct how even earlier supercontinents assembled and broke apart before Pangaea. Although scientists are still piecing together the jigsaw-puzzle pieces, they have good hints that another supercontinent called Nuna, sometimes known as Columbia, existed prior to Pangaea.

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Researchers then determined that when the supercontinent Nuna broke apart an estimated 300 million years later, the Georgetown area did not drift away and instead became a new piece of real estate permanently stuck to Australia.

Previous studies have suggested that northeastern Australia was adjacent North America, Siberia or North China when the continents came together to form Nuna.

Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that the tiny Australian town of Georgetown was once part of North America, while also revealing some new information on the origins and history of the supercontinent Nuna.

That's not all. Colliding landmasses typically form mountain ranges. The collision of India and Asia, for example, formed the Himalayas.

"This was a critical part of global continental reorganization when nearly all continents on Earth assembled to form the supercontinent called Nuna", Nordsvan said in a statement. The researchers of the new study say they found evidence of mountains forming when Georgetown rammed into the rest of Australia. "This new finding is a key step in understanding how Earth's first supercontinent Nuna may have formed".

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