List of tectonic plates

This is a list of tectonic plates on Earth's surface. Tectonic plates are pieces of Earth's crust and uppermost mantle, together referred to as the lithosphere. The plates are around 100 km (62 mi) thick and consist of two principal types of material: oceanic crust (also called sima from silicon and magnesium) and continental crust (sial from silicon and aluminium). The composition of the two types of crust differs markedly, with mafic basaltic rocks dominating oceanic crust, while continental crust consists principally of lower-density felsic granitic rocks.

Map of Earth's 16 principal tectonic plates, showing plate boundary types:
Divergent:
  Spreading center
  Extension zone
Convergent: Transform:
  Dextral transform
  Sinistral transform
Plate tectonics map from NASA

Current plates

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Geologists generally agree that the following tectonic plates currently exist on Earth's surface with roughly definable boundaries. Tectonic plates are sometimes subdivided into three fairly arbitrary categories: major (or primary) plates, minor (or secondary) plates, and microplates (or tertiary plates).[1]

Major plates

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Map showing Earth's principal tectonic plates and their boundaries in detail

These plates comprise the bulk of the continents and the Pacific Ocean. For purposes of this list, a major plate is any plate with an area greater than 20 million km2 (7.7 million sq mi)

  • African Plate – Tectonic plate underlying Africa – 61,300,000 km2 (23,700,000 sq mi)
  • Antarctic Plate – Major tectonic plate containing Antarctica and the surrounding ocean floor – 60,900,000 km2 (23,500,000 sq mi)
  • Eurasian Plate – Tectonic plate which includes most of the continent of Eurasia – 67,800,000 km2 (26,200,000 sq mi)
  • Indo-Australian Plate – Major tectonic plate formed by the fusion of the Indian and Australian plates (sometimes considered to be two separate tectonic plates) – 58,900,000 km2 (22,700,000 sq mi)
    • Australian Plate – Major tectonic plate separated from Indo-Australian Plate about 3 million years ago – 47,000,000 km2 (18,000,000 sq mi)
    • Indian Plate – Minor plate that separated from Gondwana – 11,900,000 km2 (4,600,000 sq mi)
  • North American Plate – Large tectonic plate including most of North America, Greenland and part of Siberia – 75,900,000 km2 (29,300,000 sq mi)
  • Pacific Plate – Oceanic tectonic plate under the Pacific Ocean – 103,300,000 km2 (39,900,000 sq mi)
  • South American Plate – Major tectonic plate which includes most of South America and a large part of the south Atlantic – 43,600,000 km2 (16,800,000 sq mi)

Minor plates

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These smaller plates are often not shown on major plate maps, as the majority of them do not comprise significant land area. For purposes of this list, a minor plate is any plate with an area less than 20 million km2 (7.7 million sq mi) but greater than 1 million km2 (0.39 million sq mi).


  • Amurian Plate – A minor tectonic plate in eastern Asia
  • Arabian Plate – Minor tectonic plate – 5,000,000 km2 (1,900,000 sq mi)
  • Burma Plate – Minor tectonic plate in Southeast Asia – 1,100,000 km2 (420,000 sq mi)
  • Caribbean Plate – A mostly oceanic tectonic plate including part of Central America and the Caribbean Sea – 3,300,000 km2 (1,300,000 sq mi)
  • Caroline Plate – Minor oceanic tectonic plate north of New Guinea – 1,700,000 km2 (660,000 sq mi)
  • Cocos Plate – Young oceanic tectonic plate beneath the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of Central America – 2,900,000 km2 (1,100,000 sq mi)
  • Indian Plate – Minor plate that separated from Gondwana – 11,900,000 km2 (4,600,000 sq mi)
  • Nazca Plate – Oceanic tectonic plate in the eastern Pacific Ocean basin – 15,600,000 km2 (6,000,000 sq mi)[note 1]
  • New Hebrides Plate – Minor tectonic plate in the Pacific Ocean near Vanuatu – 1,100,000 km2 (420,000 sq mi)
  • Okhotsk Plate – Minor tectonic plate in Asia
  • Philippine Sea Plate – Oceanic tectonic plate to the east of the Philippines – 5,500,000 km2 (2,100,000 sq mi)
  • Scotia Plate – Minor oceanic tectonic plate between the Antarctic and South American plates – 1,600,000 km2 (620,000 sq mi)
  • Somali Plate – Minor tectonic plate including the east coast of Africa and the adjoining seabed – 16,700,000 km2 (6,400,000 sq mi)
  • Sunda Plate – Tectonic plate including Southeast Asia
  • Yangtze Plate – Small tectonic plate carrying the bulk of southern China

Microplates

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These plates are often grouped with an adjacent principal plate on a tectonic plate world map. For purposes of this list, a microplate is any plate with an area less than 1 million km2. Some models identify more minor plates within current orogens (events that lead to a large structural deformation of Earth's lithosphere) like the Apulian, Explorer, Gorda, and Philippine Mobile Belt plates.[2] The latest studies have shown that microplates are the basic elements of which the crust is composed and that the larger plates are composed of amalgamations of these, and a subdivision of ca. 1200 smaller plates has come forward.[3][4]

 
The new Global Tectonic Map with the subdivision of the Continents, Oceans and Mobile mountain belts in ca. 1200 smaller plates. Legend: Green: Terrane (microplate) boundaries in the Continental Blocks, Cyan: Terranes of the Oceanic Plates, Orange: terranes inside the Mobile Belts, Blue: Oceanic transform faults; Red: Fault zones in the Continental and Mountain belt domain; Purple: Main subduction zones and suture zones; Orange dots: volcanoes.

Ancient tectonic plates

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In the history of Earth, many tectonic plates have come into existence and have over the intervening years either accreted onto other plates to form larger plates, rifted into smaller plates, or have been crushed by or subducted under other plates.

The following is a list of ancient cratons, microplates, plates, and terranes which no longer exist as separate plates. Cratons are the oldest and most stable parts of the continental lithosphere, and shields are exposed parts of them. Terranes are fragments of crustal material formed on one tectonic plate and accreted to crust lying on another plate, which may or may not have originated as independent microplates: a terrane may not contain the full thickness of the lithosphere.

African Plate

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Antarctic Plate

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  • Bellingshausen Plate – Ancient tectonic plate that fused onto the Antarctic Plate
  • Charcot Plate – Fragment of the Phoenix tectonic plate fused to the Antarctic Peninsula
  • East Antarctic Shield, also known as East Antarctic Craton – Cratonic rock body which makes up most of the continent Antarctica
  • Phoenix Plate – Tectonic plate that existed during the early Paleozoic through late Cenozoic time

Eurasian Plate

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  • Armorica – Microcontinent or group of continental fragments rifted away from Gondwana (France, Germany, Spain and Portugal)
  • Avalonia – Microcontinent in the Paleozoic era (Canada, Great Britain, and United States)
  • Baltic Plate – Ancient tectonic plate from the Cambrian to the Carboniferous Period
  • Belomorian Craton
  • Central Iberian Plate
  • Cimmerian Plate – Ancient string of microcontinents that rifted from Gondwana (Anatolia, Iran, Afghanistan, Tibet, Indochina and Malaya)
  • East China Craton[citation needed]
  • East European Craton – Geology of Europe
  • Baltic Shield, also known as Fennoscandian Shield – Ancient segment of Earth's crust
  • Junggar Plate – Geographical subregion in Northwest China and Eastern Kazakhstan
  • Hunic plate
  • Karelian Craton – Region comprising the Scandinavian Peninsula, Finland, Karelia, and the Kola Peninsula
  • Kazakhstania – Geological region in Central Asia and the Junngar Basin in China
  • Kola Craton – Geographical peninsula in Europe
  • Lhasa terrane – Fragment of crustal material that forms present-day southern Tibet
  • Massif Central – Highland region in southern France
  • Moldanubian Plate – A tectonic zone in Europe formed during the Variscan or Hercynian Orogeny
  • Moravo Silesian Plate
  • Midlands Microcraton – Block of late Neoproterozoic crust which underlies the English Midlands
  • North Atlantic Craton – Archaean craton exposed in Greenland, Labrador, and northwestern Scotland
  • North China Craton – Continental crustal block in northeast China, Inner Mongolia, the Yellow Sea, and North Korea
  • Ossa-Morena Plate
  • Piemont-Liguria Plate – Former piece of oceanic crust that is seen as part of the Tethys Ocean
  • Proto-Alps Terrane
  • Rhenohercynian Plate – Fold belt of west and central Europe, formed during the Hercynian orogeny
  • Sarmatian Craton – The southern part of the East European Craton or Baltica, also known as Scythian Plateau
  • Saxothuringian Plate – Structural or tectonic zone in the Hercynian or Variscan orogen of central and western Europe
  • Siberian Craton – Ancient craton forming the Central Siberian Plateau
  • South Portuguese Plate
  • Tarim Craton
  • Teplá-Barrandian Terrane
  • Ukrainian Shield – The southwest shield of the East European craton
  • Valais Plate – Subducted ocean basin. Remnants found in the Alps in the North Penninic nappes.
  • Volgo-Uralian Craton
  • Yakutai Craton
  • Yangtze Craton – Precambrian continental block located in China

Indo-Australian Plate

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Basic geological regions of Australia, by age
 
Map of chronostratigraphic divisions of India
  • Altjawarra Craton (Australia)
  • Aravalli Craton (India)
  • Bastar Craton (India)
  • Bhandara Craton (India)
  • Bundelkhand Craton (India)
  • Dharwar Craton – Part of the Indian Shield in south India
  • Central Craton (Australia)
  • Curnamona Craton (Australia)
  • Gawler Craton – Province of the larger West Australian Shield in central South Australia
  • Indian Craton
  • Narooma Terrane – Geological structural region on the south coast of New South Wales, Australia
  • Pilbara Craton – Old and stable part of the continental lithosphere located in Pilbara, Western Australia
  • Singhbhum Craton (India)
  • Yilgarn Craton – Large craton in Western Australia
  • Australian Shield, also known as Western Australian Shield – Large part of the continent of Australia
  • Zealandia – Mostly submerged continental crust area in Oceania. See Moa Plate and Lord Howe Rise

North American Plate

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North American cratons and basement rocks
  • Avalonia – Microcontinent in the Paleozoic era (Canada, Great Britain, and United States)
  • Carolina Plate – Exotic terrane from central Georgia to central Virginia in the United States
  • Churchill Craton – Geologic region in Canada (Canada)
  • Farallon Plate – Ancient oceanic plate that has mostly subducted under the North American Plate (split into the Cocos, Explorer, Juan de Fuca, Gorda Plates, Nazca Plate, and Rivera Plates)
  • Florida Plate (United States)
  • Hearne Craton – Craton in northern Canada (Canada)
  • Laurentian Craton, also known as North American Craton – Craton forming the geological core of North America (Canada and United States)
  • Insular Plate – Ancient oceanic plate
  • Intermontane Plate – Ancient oceanic tectonic plate on the west coast of North America about 195 million years ago
  • Izanagi Plate – Ancient tectonic plate
  • Mexican Plate
  • Nain Province – Part of the North Atlantic Craton in Labrador, Canada (Canada)
  • Newfoundland Plate
  • North Atlantic Craton – Archaean craton exposed in Greenland, Labrador, and northwestern Scotland
  • Nova Scotia Plate
  • Rae Craton – Archean craton in northern Canada north of the Superior Craton (Canada)
  • Sask Craton (Canada)
  • Sclavia Craton – Late Archean supercraton (Canada)
  • Slave Craton – Area of ancient rocks in northwest Canada (Canada)
  • Superior Craton – Large crustal block in North America (Canada)
  • Wyoming Craton – Craton in the west-central United States and western Canada (United States)

South American Plate

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See also

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  • Asthenosphere – Highly viscous, mechanically weak, and ductile region of Earth's mantle
  • Continent – Large geographical region identified by convention
  • Craton – Old and stable part of the continental lithosphere
    • Platform – A continental area covered by relatively flat or gently tilted, mainly sedimentary strata
    • Shield – Large stable area of exposed Precambrian crystalline rock
  • Earth's crust – Earth's outer shell of rock
    • Continental crust – Layer of rock that forms the continents and continental shelves
    • Oceanic crust – Uppermost layer of the oceanic portion of a tectonic plate
  • Earth's mantle – A layer of silicate rock between Earth's crust and its outer core
    • Lower mantle – The region from 660 to 2900 km below Earth's surface
    • Upper mantle – A very thick layer of rock inside planet Earth
  • Geochemistry – Science that applies chemistry to analyze geological systems
    • Sial – Rocks rich in aluminium silicate minerals
    • Sima – Rocks rich in magnesium silicate minerals
  • Hydrosphere – Total amount of water on a planet
  • Lithosphere – Outermost shell of a terrestrial-type planet or natural satellite
  • Ocean – Salt water covering most of Earth
  • Plate tectonics – Movement of Earth's lithosphere
  • Supercontinent – Landmass comprising more than one continental core, or craton
  • Terrane – Fragment of crust formed on one tectonic plate and accreted to another

Notes and references

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Notes

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  1. ^ 15,600,000 km2 is the original size before the 2017 split of the Coiba and Malpelo plates.

References

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  1. ^ Madaan, About Sonia (2020-08-18). "7 Major Tectonic Plates (Pacific, African, Eurasian, Antarctic and more)". Earth Eclipse. How Many Tectonic Plates Are on Earth?. Retrieved 2022-05-12.
  2. ^ Bird, P. (2003). "An updated digital model of plate boundaries". Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems 4 (3): 1027. doi:10.1029/2001GC000252. http://peterbird.name/publications/2003_PB2002/2003_PB2002.htm.
  3. ^ Hasterok, D., Halpin, J., Collins, A.S., Hand, M., Kreemer, C., Gard, M., and Glorie, S. (2022); New maps of global geological provinces and tectonic plates. Earth Science Reviews, 2022.
  4. ^ van Dijk, J.P. (2023); The New Global Tectonic Map - Analyses and Implications. Terra Nova, 2023, 27 pp. doi:10.1111/TER.12662
  5. ^ Antarctic Plate Tectonics
  6. ^ Gasperini, L; Ligi, M; Accettella, D; Bosman, A; Cuffaro, M; Lodolo, E; Martorelli, E; Muccini, F; Palmiotto, C; Polonia, A (1 February 2023). "Late Miocene to recent tectonic evolution of the Macquarie Triple Junction". Geology. 51 (2): 146–50. doi:10.1130/G50556.1.
  7. ^ "Introduction - Project Cratera". utl.pt.
  8. ^ Demets, C., Gordon, Richard, & Argus, Donald, «MORVEL: A new estimate for geologically recent plate motions» in AGU Fall Meeting Abstracts.
  9. ^ Niels Henriksen; A.K. Higgins; Feiko Kalsbeek; T. Christopher R. Pulvertaft (2000). "Greenland from Archaean to Quaternary" (PDF). Greenland Survey Bulletin. No. 185. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-12-07. Retrieved 2009-10-04.

Bibliography

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North Andes Plate
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