Earth’s land may have formed 500 million years earlier than we thought

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Simone Marchi/SwRI

The Earth’s continental crust may have emerged 500 million years earlier than scientists had previously estimated. Pinning down when the land on Earth emerged could help us understand the conditions in which primitive life began.

Today, new oceanic crust rises at mid-ocean ridges where tectonic plates drift apart. Continental crust is usually much older, formed from volcanism where plates crash into each other – thrusting a thicker, less-dense layer above sea level.

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