New insights on plate tectonics

By on 9 July, 2013


Researchers have used computer modelling to correct our understanding of the ancient movements of tectonic plates, which will help accurately locate oil and gas resources in our region.

“The location of oil and hydrocarbon resources is determined by the tectonic architecture of the Earth,” explains Professor Gordon Lister of the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences.

“We’ve brought geology back into the equation, making our understanding of the underlying processes that build the Earth’s architecture much more accurate.”

“This information can help us understand where and how sedimentary basins containing oil and gas formed, such as those that are found along Australia’s southern margin,” said Dr George Gibson from Geoscience Australia.

Approximately 165 million years ago, the Australian, Indian and Antarctic plates drifted apart from the super-continent Gondwana, but up until now there has been uncertainty as to the exact position and movements of the plates in the past.

“We used a simple technique of matching geological landmarks on each plate, a technique that hasn’t been used by many of the modern scientists studying this problem,” explained Dr Lloyd White, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences and Royal Holloway University.

Using a computer program, the team moved geological maps of Australia, India and Antarctica back through time, piecing together Gondwana by aligning geological landmarks. Previous studies had positioned the plates incorrectly because they did not consider these landmarks.

A short video demonstrating the ancient jigsaw puzzle can be viewed at The article was published in the journal Gondwana Research and is available online at

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