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Published on Apr 20, 2012
The continents are moving, along with the sea floor, at about 2 inches/year. They don't travel very far over a human life span, but the distance adds up over millions of years.
This simulation, which is based on current data, shows the movement of the continents over the past 140 million years. (Note that time is given in the units "Ma," which means "millions of years ago.") The simulation starts when dinosaurs roamed the earth. At that time, the continents were all together, forming one land mass called Pangaea.
Over the next 140 million years, this land mass broke apart and the pieces travelled to their current positions.
Note how fast India travels toward Asia about 60 million years ago. The resulting collision, which continues to this day, built the Himalayas. (See close-up of the formation of the Himalaya's at: http://youtu.be/7Llj9Czq2ho)
Credit: Alex Copley, Ashley Kennard, Jessica Kim, and Lindsey Stancliff, Tectonics Observatory, California Institute of Technology