A Billion Years in 40 Seconds: Mesmerizing Video Reveals the Evolution Our Dynamic Planet

A Billion Years in 40 Seconds

New research helps understand how plate tectonics powers life on Earth.

  • Plate tectonics are responsible for the deep-carbon and deep-water cycles.
  • Arrangement of continents has changed sea level in the past.
  • The evolution of life is modified by tectonics — continents are rafts with evolving species that mix when continents combine.
  • A growing focus on renewable and low-carbon technologies will mean we need to find more copper and other resources. To find these deposits our new models of plate tectonics will help reduce the environmental footprint of mineral exploration and extraction.

Geoscientists have released a video that for the first time shows the uninterrupted movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates over the past billion years.

The international effort provides a scientific framework for understanding planetary habitability and for finding critical metal resources needed for a low-carbon future.

It reveals a planet in constant movement as land masses move around the Earth’s surface, for instance showing that Antarctica was once at the equator.

The video is based on new research published in the March 2021 edition of Earth-Science Reviews.


Video showing the movement of Earth’s tectonic plates over the past billion years. Credit: Dr. Andrew Merdith/University of Lyon

Co-author and academic leader of the University of Sydney EarthByte geosciences group, Professor Dietmar Müller, said: “Our team has created an entirely new model of Earth evolution over the last billion years.

Dietmar Muller

Professor Dietmar Müller from the EarthByte group in the School of Geosciences at the University of Sydney. Credit: Britta Campion

“Our planet is unique in the way that it hosts life. But this is only possible because geological processes, like plate tectonics, provide a planetary life-support system.”

Lead author and creator of the video Dr. Andrew Merdith began work on the project while a PhD student with Professor Müller in the School of Geosciences at the University of Sydney. He is now based at the University of Lyon in France.

Co-author, Dr. Michael Tetley, who also completed his PhD at the University of Sydney, told Euronews: “For the first time a complete model of tectonics has been built, including all the boundaries”

“On a human timescale, things move in centimeters per year, but as we can see from the animation, the continents have been everywhere in time. A place like Antarctica that we see as a cold, icy inhospitable place today, actually was once quite a nice holiday destination at the equator.”

Co-author Dr. Sabin Zahirovic from the University of Sydney, said: “Planet Earth is incredibly dynamic, with the surface composed of ‘plates’ that constantly jostle each other in a way unique among the known rocky planets. These plates move at the speed fingernails grow, but when a billion years is condensed into 40 seconds a mesmerizing dance is revealed.

“Oceans open and close, continents disperse and periodically recombine to form immense supercontinents.”

Earth scientists from every continent have collected and published data, often from inaccessible and remote regions, that Dr. Andrew Merdith and his collaborators have assimilated over the past four years to produce this billion-year model.

It will allow scientists to better understand how the interior of the Earth convects, chemically mixes and loses heat via seafloor spreading and volcanism. The model will help scientists understand how climate has changed, how ocean currents altered and how nutrients fluxed from the deep Earth to stimulate biological evolution.

Professor Müller said: “Simply put, this complete model will help explain how our home, Planet Earth, became habitable for complex creatures. Life on Earth would not exist without plate tectonics. With this new model, we are closer to understanding how this beautiful blue planet became our cradle.”

Reference: “Extending full-plate tectonic models into deep time: Linking the Neoproterozoic and the Phanerozoic” by Andrew S. Merdith, Simon E. Williams, Alan S. Collins, Michael G. Tetley, Jacob A. Mulder, Morgan L. Blades, Alexander Young, Sheree E. Armistead, John Cannon, Sabin Zahirovic and R. Dietmar Müller, 24 December 2020, Earth-Science Reviews.
DOI: 10.1016/j.earscirev.2020.103477

5 Comments on "A Billion Years in 40 Seconds: Mesmerizing Video Reveals the Evolution Our Dynamic Planet"

  1. Angela Hannigan | February 8, 2021 at 7:50 am | Reply

    So would that be the reason that there are so many quakes? Because the movement of the tectonic plates? If they are moving around wouldn’t that cause weather disruption too? And would colder continents become warmer?

  2. lol Mind-blowing how much movement and how at times it seemed to congregate around the south pole.

  3. Regardless of geographical positions, the scrambled mess of countries does reflect the current state of world affairs.

  4. Babu G. Ranganathan | February 10, 2021 at 9:05 am | Reply

    Babu G. Ranganathan*
    (B.A. Bible/Biology)

    NOT MILLIONS OF YEARS OLD! Evolutionary dating (including radiometric dating) is not infallible science, is based on certain built-in assumptions, and has often been proven to be contradictory and inconsistent. Please read my popular Internet article, ARE FOSSILS REALLY MILLIONS OF YEARS OLD? Just google the title followed by my name.

    There’s a lot of evidence that the fossil layers were not deposited by gradual floods, which would have required millions of years. Rather, the evidence strongly points to a one world-wide flood, just as the Bible teaches. This one world-wide flood fossilized species and unleashed tremendous forces that changed the geology and topography of the earth.

    The fossil layers in the real world are not even found in the sequence taught in evolutionary textbooks. There are many places where fossils of complex creatures are found beneath simpler ones, and there are fossils of mixed species existing in the same stratum which classic evolutionary textbooks teach should have been separated by millions of years. Of course a biblical world-wide flood would generally have buried and fossilized marine animals first with amphibians, reptiles and mammals to follow. Evolutionists have interpreted all of this into an evolutionary scenario spanning millions of years.

    There is absolutely no proof of macro-evolution in the fossil record. The fossils of all species are found complete (not partially-evolved) with no evidence of actual transition from one kind to another. There are no fossils of fish, for example, with part fins, part feet to show that transition occurred from fins to feet. Besides this, partially-evolved species would be unfit for survival while waiting to be completed over millions of years.

    ONLY LIMITED EVOLUTION (micro-evolution or evolution within biological “kinds”) is genetically possible (such as the varieties of dogs, cats, horses, cows, etc.), but not macro-evolution, or evolution across biological “kinds,” (such as from sea sponge to human). All real evolution in nature is simply the expression, over time, of already existing genes or variations of already existing genes. For example, we have breeds of dogs today that we didn’t have a few hundred years ago. The genes for these breeds had always existed in the dog population but never had opportunity before to be expressed. Only limited evolution or adaptation, variations of already existing genes and traits, is possible. Nature is mindless and has no ability to design and program entirely new genes for entirely new traits.

    NEW SPECIES: Although new species can come into existence, they don’t carry any new genes. They’ve become new species only because they can’t be crossed back with the original parent stock for various biological reasons. A biological “kind” allows for new species but not new genes. Nature has no ability to invent new genes for new traits. Only limited variations and adaptations are possible in nature, and all strictly within a biological “kind” (i.e. varieties of dogs, cats, etc.).

    THE FEW “INTERMEDIATE” (SO-CALLED TRANSITIONAL LINKS) IN FOSSILS claimed by evolutionists are highly disputed, even among the evolutionists. If macro-evolution really occurred there should be billions of indisputable intermediate fossils, not a few disputable ones. There’s not one example of a so-called transitional link that all evolutionists can agree on, not one.

    What about the duck-billed platypus? It has traits belonging to both birds and mammals, but even evolutionists don’t argue that it’s a transitional link between birds and mammals.

    Some evolutionists use similarities of traits between species as an argument for transitional forms. This is not a good argument because the traits they cite are complete, fully-formed, and fully functional, not in any true process of transition from one type of structure into another.

    Genetic information, like other forms of information, cannot arise by chance, so it is more logical to believe that genetic and biological similarities between all forms of life are due to a common Designer who designed similar functions for similar purposes. It doesn’t mean all forms of life are biologically related!

    What about natural selection? Natural selection can only “select” from biological variations that are possible and which have survival value. It doesn’t produce genes or biological traits. That’s why it’s called natural “selection.”

    Many people have wrong ideas of how evolution is supposed to work. Physical traits and characteristics are determined and passed on by genes — not by what happens to our body parts. For example, if a woman were to lose her finger this wouldn’t affect how many fingers her baby will have. Changing the color and texture of your hair will not affect the color and texture of your children’s hair. So, even if an ape’s muscles and bones changed so that it could walk upright it still would not be able to pass on this trait to its offspring. Only changes or mutations that occur in the genetic code of reproductive cells (i.e. sperm and egg) can be passed on to offspring.

    What about the new science of epigenetics? Epigenetics involves inheritable factors which can turn genes on, but epigenetics doesn’t alter the DNA code itself.

    Modern evolutionists believe and hope that over, supposedly, millions of years, random mutations in the genetic code of reproductive cells caused by environmental radiation will generate entirely new genes for natural selection to use. This is total blind and irrational faith on the part of evolutionists. It’s much like believing that randomly changing the sequence of letters in a romance novel, over millions of years, will turn it into a book on astronomy! That’s the kind of blind faith macro-evolutionists have.

    Mutations are accidents in the genetic code, are mostly harmful, and have no capability of producing greater complexity in the code. Even if a good accident occurred, for every good one there would be hundreds of harmful ones with the net result, over time, being harmful, even lethal, to the species. At best, mutations only produce further variations within a natural species. Even so, mutations are not the best explanation for variations within a natural species.

    How could species have survived if their vital tissues, organs, reproductive systems, etc. were still evolving? A partially evolved trait or organ that is not complete and fully functioning from the start would be a liability to a species, not a survival asset. Plants and animals in the process of macro-evolution would be unfit for survival. For example, “if a leg of a reptile were to evolve (over supposedly millions of years) into a wing of a bird, it would become a bad leg long before it became a good wing” (Dr. Walt Brown, scientist and creationist) Survival of the fittest actually would have prevented macro-evolution (evolution across biological kinds!)

    All the fossils that have been used to support human evolution have been found to be either hoaxes, non-human, or human, but not non-human and human.

    The fossils show that all life came into existence as complete and fully-formed from the beginning, which is only possible by creation.

    Visit the author’s latest Internet site: THE SCIENCE SUPPORTING CREATION (This site answers many arguments, both old and new, that have been used by evolutionists to support their theory).

    Author of the popular Internet article, TRADITIONAL DOCTRINE OF HELL EVOLVED FROM GREEK ROOTS

    *I have given successful lectures (with question and answer period afterwards) defending creation before evolutionist science faculty and students at various colleges and universities. I’ve been privileged to be recognized in the 24th edition of Marquis “Who’s Who in The East.”

  5. Creation myths are a dime-a-dozen. Ours’ (and I say that as a Christian) is a particularly unsatisfying story that fails to even consider the progeny of Adam and Eve marrying “others”. Come on.

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