The massive mountain ranges as high as the Himalayas across entire supercontinents played a crucial role in the evolution of life on Earth. These stretch up to 8,000 kilometres, says a new study by researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).
Scientists tracked the formation of these super mountains throughout Earth’s history. They used traces of zircon with low lutetium content, it is a combination of mineral and rare earth element only found in the roots of high mountains where they form under intense pressure.
The study also points out that these supermountains only formed twice in Earth’s history. First they formed between 2,000 and 1,800 million years ago and the second between 650 and 500 million years ago.
Both mountain ranges rose during periods of supercontinent formation. Scientists highlight the links between these two instances of supermountains and the two most important periods of evolution of life.
They name the first example the Nuna Supermountain. It coincides with the likely appearance of eukaryotes; these are organisms that later gave rise to plants and animals.
The second called as the Transgondwanan Supermountain. These coincide with the Cambrian explosion 45 million years ago when most animal groups appeared in the fossil record.
This research was published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters. The entire mountain building these two huge spikes; the one is linked to the emergence of animals and the other to the emergence of complex big cells.
Scientists believe that these supermountains may also have boosted oxygen levels in the atmosphere.
However, there is no evidence of other supermountains forming at any stage between these two events. This is what makes them even more significant.
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