As volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occasionally remind us, the earth beneath our feet is constantly on the move.
Continental plates only move around 1-4 inches per year, so we don’t notice the tectonic forces that are continually reshaping the surface of our planet. But on a long enough timeline, those inches add up to big changes in the way landmasses on Earth are configured.
Today’s map, by Massimo Pietrobon, is a look back to when all land on the planet was arranged into a supercontinent called Pangea. Pietrobon’s map is unique in that it overlays the approximate borders of present day countries to help us understand how Pangea broke apart to form the world that we know today.
Pangea was the latest in a line of supercontinents in Earth’s history.
Pangea began developing over 300 million years ago, eventually making up one-third of the earth’s surface. The remainder of the planet was an enormous ocean known as Panthalassa.
As time goes by, scientists are beginning to piece together more information on the climate and patterns of life on the supercontinent. Similar to parts of Central Asia today, the center of the landmass is thought to have been arid and inhospitable, with temperatures reaching 113ºF (45ºC). The extreme temperatures revealed by climate simulations are supported by the fact that very few fossils are found in the modern day regions that once existed in the middle of Pangea. The strong contrast between the Pangea supercontinent and Panthalassa is believed to have triggered intense cross-equatorial monsoons.
By this unique point in history, plants and animals had spread across the landmass, and animals (such as dinosaurs) were able to wander freely across the entire expanse of Pangea.
Read more: Visual Capitalist