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Research Highlights

Supercontinent Pangea
Supercontinent Pangea and the structure of mantle at almost 3,000 kilometers deep. (Courtesy of Ross Mitchell and Bernhard Steinberger.)

Nature Review of State-of-the-Art Supercontinent Research

An article published in Nature Reviews Earth & Environment presents the current state-of-the-art in supercontinent research. The review, led by Prof Ross Mitchell, also includes many current or previous Earth Dynamics Research Group members as co-authors.

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Daniel Brennan

Sandstones record ancient supercontinent processes

Research findings, led by PhD student Daniel Brennan and recently published in the journals Geology and Terra Nova, have given new insights into the break up of the supercontinent Rodinia and how it affected ancient sedimentary transport systems.

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Evans, Li & Murphy 2016

It took 2 billion years for Earth to kick start its supercontinent cycle

In a recently published article in Geology, a team of researchers associated with Curtin University’s Earth Dynamics Research Group provide the first clues about the infancy of the supercontinent cycle in deeper time.

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supercontinents break up along orogens

Supercontinents break up along old scars

Recent geodynamic modelling published in the new Nature journal Communications Earth and Environment shows that while the break-up of a supercontinent is triggered by mantle plumes, the locations for the development of continental rifts is largely guided by the orogens.

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Evolution of Georgetown Inlier

Structural and metamorphic evolution of the final Nuna assembly in northeast Australia

Three recent contributions from Ms Silvia Volante show the distinct stages of evolution of the c. 1.6 billion-year orogenic belt in NE Australia and supports the previously published continental collision between the Laurentian and Australian blocks during the final assembly of the Supercontinent Nuna.

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Two-faced Earth

Deep mantle unveils a two-faced Earth

Research led by scientists in the Earth Dynamics Research Group, and published in Nature Geoscience, suggests that the Earth has two chemically distinct hemispheric ‘faces’ or domains.


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Credit: National Geographic
Credit: National Geographic

Early whole mantle remixing suggests a start of global plate tectonics before three billion years ago

New work, published in the journal Scientific Reports, found that after the initial chemical stratification and formation of a hard shell in the first billion years of our planet’s history, there was a major chemical ‘stir-up’ some 3.2 billion years ago.

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Fiordland Granite

The formation of continental crust — just add water!

A recently published Nature Geoscience article outlines the critical importance of water in the melting that occurs in subduction zones. This work, lead by Prof. Bill Collins, also discusses how this fluid-fluxed melting influences the mineralogical and geochemical signatures of the continental crust.

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Combined plume record

Shall we dance — taking a 600 million year–long step at a time

Two recent articles, in Nature Communications and Geology, published by our team working on Oceanic Large Igneous Provinces (O-LIPs) point to a synchronised behaviour between tectonic plates and Earth’s deep mantle.

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Chromium spinel

Cr-spinel records metasomatism not petrogenesis of mantle rocks

A recent Nature Communications article by PhD student Hamed Gamal El Dien questions the use of chromium spinel as a robust petrogenetic indicator and instead argues that it can be utilised as a tracer for metasomatic processes.

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Modelling supercontinent breakup

What does it take to break up a supercontinent?

The Earth Dynamics Research Group’s geodynamic modeling team recently published results of a new 4D model evaluating the effect of pre-existing orogens in the lithosphere on the supercontinent breakup process.

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Snowball Earth carbonate rocks

Major shoreline retreat following Snowball Earth

A recent article, published in Terra Nova, reports a new interpretation of the observed carbonate rocks that overlay the Cryogenian glacial deposits and supports the rapid deglaciation of Snowball Earth.

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Arc magmatic signatures

Origin of arc magmatic signatures

A new paper in Nature Scientific Reports by one of our PhD students. This article outlines the role of serpentinites for the systematic distribution of fluid-mobile elements and rare earth elements in subduction zones.

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Snowball Earth Glaciation

Glacial incisions of the snowball Earth

There are surprisingly few lines of geological evidence for glacial incisions associated with a snowball Earth scale event that are not controversial. A recent article published by members of the Earth Dynamics Research Group reports multiple lines of geological field evidence for deep but variable glacial erosion during the Sturtian glaciation (ca. 717‐659 million years ago, Ma).

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Superocean cycle

Decoding the Earth’s rhythms

The supercontinents appear to have assembled and broken up through alternating processes of ‘introversion’ and ‘extroversion’. The process spans twice the period of the supercontinent cycle and involves either the survival or regeneration of superoceans and the subduction girdle. This research has been published in Precambrian Research.

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Tibetan Plateau

Insights into the Tibetan Plateau

A recent Tectonics article provides new insight into the nature and evolution of the Tibetan Plateau. This work focuses on the Longmenshan Fault Zone (LFZ), a tectonic boundary between the Tibetan Plateau and the Sichuan Basin of the South China Block.

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Final Nuna assembly

1.6 Ga crustal thickening along the final Nuna suture

Newly published results in GEOLOGY outline the evidence for the collision of proto-Australia and Laurentia during the final assembly of supercontinent Nuna.

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New research backs ‘lull’ in the geologic record, Earth’s mid-life crisis

Published in Nature Geoscience, recent research backs claims that the Earth experienced a ‘geological lull’ in its development around 2.3 to 2.2 billion years ago.

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Nuna in two stages

Supercontinent Nuna formed in two stages

Recent results from the eastern Kimberley craton produced a well defined paleopole for the 1.8 Ga Hart Dolerite. Comparing this with existing data from proto-Australia and Laurentia between 1800-1400 Ma suggests that there were two stages of assembly between Australia and Laurentia during the assembly of Nuna.

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A piece of America found in northern Australia: Legacy of the 1.6-billion-year-old supercontinent Nuna

Some recently published results in the journal GEOLOGY links North Queensland to North America at 1.6 billion years ago during the supercontinent Nuna.

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Lone plume modeling

The formation of mantle “lone plumes”

The Hainan plume has been used as an example to investigate the feasibility of lone plumes being generated by subducting slabs in the mantle downwelling zone using 3D geodynamic modelling.


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Northeastern Gondwana

An Australian source for Pacific-Gondwana zircon

Research published in the journal GEOLOGY revealed the Paterson-Petermann Orogen of Central Australia to be the major source for the “characteristic Pacific-Gondwana zircons”.

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UAE-Oman Ophiolite

Finding melted mud in the mantle

Sediment abundance in mantle-derived melt is generally low and difficult to detect. Granite sampled from an exhumed mantle section found in the Oman-UAE ophiolite has provided evidence for the melting of subducted sediment.

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LIP Barcode of Yilgarn

LIP barcoding the Yilgarn Craton

A newly identified, NW-trending, mafic dyke swarm (Boonadgin dyke swarm, 1.9 Ga) in southwestern Yilgarn Craton raise the possibility of a link with India.


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Lower mantle influence on geomagnetic field reversals

While paleomagnetic data is generally used to reconstruct the continental blocks throughout Earth’s history there are other ways to deduce valuable information from the changing geomagnetic field on the long term evolution of the Earth.

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