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Pangaea: 250 - 200 million years ago

In the shifting story of the face of the earth, the land surface merges into one single continent about 250 million years ago. It is from this land mass that our own geography has gradually emerged.

This continent has been given the name Pangaea (Greek for 'all earth'). About 200 million years ago Pangaea splits into two parts, north and south, separated by water - the Tethys Sea. The area north of the Tethys Sea, named Laurasia, includes the future north America, Europe and most of Asia. South of the sea, a continent named Gondwanaland is made up of what will be South America, Antarctica, Africa, India and Australia.

From one continent to six: 200 - 20 million years ago

The reshaping of the surface of the earth, into the pattern now familiar to us, takes place between 200 and 20 million years ago.

First south America splits from Africa and drifts westwards (it is the snug fit between their coast lines which suggests the idea of continental drift to Alfred Wegener in 1912). Then Antarctica, India and Australia separate from Africa. Antarctica moves to the south, while India and Australia drift north and east.

Africa and India move slowly but forcefully towards Europe and Asia, reducing the Tethys Sea to its present-day remnant (the Mediterranean) and throwing up the Alps and the Himalayas from the force of the collision.

Finally north America splits from Europe and Asia (though remaining almost linked at its northern tip), thus forming the Atlantic ocean and completing the disposition of the continents as we know them.

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