British Mainland Formed After An Ancient Three-Way Collision


According to a recent study, some parts of Britain are a lot more like France than everyone has ever imagined. More specifically, Cornwall and south Devon are two regions that belong to France, of course, geologically speaking. New research suggests that the British mainland formed after an ancient three-way collision.

The researchers discovered that at least Cornwall and south Devon derive from an ancient portion of continental crust known as Armorica which contradicts the commonly-accepted hypothesis that the British mainland formed from a part of coat called Avolonia and a segment of Laurentia, the precursor to North America.

To understand that process, the scientists went back 400 million years ago, by 100 million years before the formation of the famous supercontinent Pangea. Back then, during the Paleozoic, most of the above-sea-level crust on Earth was split into a few continents, the most massive being Gondwana.

The other continents were Avalonia (precursor to Canada and Europe), Laurentia (precursor to North America), Barentsia, Baltica, Siberia, and North and South China.

An ancient three-way collision formed the British mainland

As the researchers of this new study report in the journal Nature Communication, approximately 400 million years ago, Avalonia collided with Laurentia. Next, there was the turn of Armorica, a piece that broke off Gondwana and which is nowadays a part of France and Europe mainland, to get involved in the merger.

“It has always been presumed that the border of Avalonia and Armorica was beneath what would seem to be the natural boundary of the English Channel,” said the study’s co-author Arjan Dijkstra from the University of Plymouth.

After taking geological samples from the southern territories of the British mainland and comparing them with those from the north-northwestern lands of France, the researchers concluded that Cornwall and south Devon match perfectly with Brittany, France.

“We always knew that around 10,000 years ago you would have been able to walk from England to France. But our findings show that millions of years before that, the bonds between the two countries would have been even stronger,” concluded Dijkstra.


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