Terrestrial impact craters track the voyage of lithospheric plates

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Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences


The paradigm of plate tectonics has aided in the identification of the journey of continents on the globe, their assembly into supercontinents, disruption, and re-assembly. Here, we use meteorite impact craters as proxies for tracking the voyage of lithospheric plates. Employing the provisions in GPlates, an interactive geographic information system-based plate tectonic reconstruction model, we were able to identify the palaeo-position, and velocity of the 174 terrestrial impact craters, formed after 1,100 Ma, across the globe. These parameters of craters were evaluated for independent tectonic plates and were correlated with global tectonic events. For example, the similarity in the velocity of Beaverhead (900 Ma) and Holleford (550 Ma) craters since 550 Ma is traced to the connection between the Eastern Basin and North America Craton commencing 1,100 Ma, and through the South Basin and Range. Likewise, the drastic reduction in the velocity of Spider Crater (700 Ma) in Australia after 600 Ma can be attributed to the subduction between east and west Gondwana. The accelerated motion of the Indian Plate at 63 Ma, when the lithosphere was hovering over the Réunion hotspot, is also explained. With the advent of more improved plate tectonic models and the discovery of more impact craters, improvised interpretations will be possible.

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Geological Journal