New research ‘rocks’ long-held geological theory – Nature publication

Mar 3, 2017

New research into ancient rocks in Western Australia contradicts the commonly held belief that Earth’s first stable continents were formed in a plate tectonic setting, Earth’s first stable continents did not form by subduction, was published today in Nature.

Lead author and SSERVI AU member Dr Tim Johnson, explained that the geodynamic environment in which Earth’s first stable continents formed remained controversial.

“Uniformitarianism is the precept in geology that the processes we can observe happening today are those that have operated throughout Earth’s history,” Dr Johnson said.

“Many geologists have subscribed to the uniformitarian view that the first continental crust formed in subduction zones via modern-style plate tectonics.

“Some, however, believe that alternative (non-uniformitarian) processes were involved – our research supports the latter.”


Normalized (against primitive mantle) concentration of selected trace elements in the average Palaeoarchaean East Pilbara TTG (orange), compared with the composition of modelled melts of the average Coucal basalt at various melt fractions (5–40%). The grey shaded region shows the 2σ uncertainties on the average East Pilbara TTG.


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