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Evolution Magazine


The ‘Boring Billion’ of Mountain Ranges and their Once Orogenic Quiescence

Our Earth’s time-lapse into what science titles as the ‘boring billion’ years

The development of earth into the planet it is today is a geological wonder. There are new discoveries on the line, between the particles of rocks and landforms, the earth is a puzzle waiting to be torn down and reassembled. 

For the past 4.4 billion years that the earth has been estimated to live, one of its greatest achievements is being a habitable planet with land, water and an atmosphere life can sustain itself on. The crust itself is a wonder to be discovered. Over the past years, geologists have figured out ways to distinguish how old rocks, gases, and chemicals are to help understand the construction of the earth and the stories it has waiting for us. One technique that is used to determine age is through europium anomalies specifically in zircons. (This mineral has been found to survive for years, untouched by other depleting factors around it that would otherwise destroy minerals and reform them, eliminating their historical value.)  Uncovering these minerals can help identify the changes the earth’s crust and structure went through throughout the years. 

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Recent discoveries with the help of zircons have shown that the active changes in plate tectonics and mountain structure that we see today, wasn’t always the case. Before we dive into this, it’s important to understand just what mountains go through to be formed and structured the way they are.

Mountains are the result of tectonic plates colliding overtime. Once these layers of the earth’s crust meet, the force they cause pushes the surface plates upright into the mountains we see today. Mountains are a reminder that the continents we see and live on today were once supercontinents before they broke apart and crashed into one another again. The solid land we stand on today is in fact not solid and constantly moving, creating pot-holes, earthquakes, and yes, mountains.

The excitement of mountain building was apparently put on hold for a rough estimate of one billion years, earning this period in time the title of the “boring billion” in biological evolution.

Now, mountains weren’t the only thing put on hold during this period. As a matter of fact, there is reason to believe that this lack of mountain construction was directly linked to the Nuna-Rodinia supercontinent and an abrupt halt in life’s journey of evolution.

Mountain belts have been found to circulate nutrients throughout the surface of the Earth, making them an essential component for healthier land. During this period where the supercontinent Nuna-Rodinia reigned, mountains were short and their development delayed, therefore the land wasn’t in the ripe fruitful condition it ought to be. This “middle age” of Earth’s life was undoubtedly slow and lasted, as the namesake would have you believe, a boring billion years.

Reported By Uzair

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