An Analysis of Theory of the Continental Drift in The Origin of Continents and Oceans by Alfred Wegner

In 1915 Alfred Wegner, a German climatologist and geophysicst, published The

Origin of Continents and Oceans. In this book he proposed his theory of the continental drift.

The first evidence that lead people to suspect that the continents were once connected was the evidence of the continental jigsaw puzzle. Wegner noticed that the coast lines of the continents could be made to fit together. This was especially true for South America and Africa.

Pangaea- About 200 million years ago A super continent called Pangaea broke up, and the continents drifted to their current position. Pangaea means “all land”.

Wegner listed many of evidence to support his idea:

  • Jigsaw puzzle continents

Wegner noticed that the cost lines of continents could be made to fit together.

  • Fossils match across the sea

Wegner noticed that the same fossils could be found in South Africa and South America. These fossils, he says, were formed before the two continents split.

  • Rock types match

The actual geology of South America and Africa match as well. Again this supports that these rocks were formed when the continents were formed.

  • Ancient climate evidence

Parts of South America, Africa, Australia and India were covered with ice 200 million

years ago.

  • The discovery of the fossil remains of the Mesosaurus in both South America and

Africa, but nowhere else supports the Continental drift hypothesis because the Mesosaurus is a presumably aquatic reptile whose remains are limited to eastern South American and Southern Africa. If the Mesosaurus had been able to swim well enough to cross the vast South Atlantic Ocean, its remains should be more widely distributed. Since this is not the case, South America and Africa at one point must have been joined.

The prevailing view of how land animals migrated across vast expanses of oceans was the idea of land bridges was the most widely accepted solution to the problem of migration. But we know that from the most recent glacial period, the lowering sea level allowed animals to cross the narrow Bering Strait between Asia and North America.

Wegner accounted for the existence of glaciers in the southern land masses, while at the same time places in North America supported lush tropical swamps was the Ancient climates.

During the late Paleozoic, large swamps existed in the Northern Hemisphere. Wegner believed that a better explanation for the paleoclimate regimes he observed is provided by the fitting together of the land masses as a super continent, with South America centered over the South Pole.

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