Australian Plate

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Australian Plate
AustralianPlate.png
Type Major
Approx. Area 47,000,000 km2[1]
Movement1 north-east
Speed1 62-70mm/year
Features Australia, New Guinea, New Zealand, Indian Ocean

1Relative to the African Plate

The Australian Plate is a major tectonic plate straddling the equator in the southern and eastern hemispheres. Originally a part of the ancient continent of Gondwana, Australia remained connected to India and Antarctica until approximately 100 million years ago when India broke away and began moving north. Australia and Antarctica began rifting 85 million years ago and completely separated roughly 45 million years ago[2] The Australian plate later fused with the adjacent Indian Plate beneath the Indian Ocean to form a single Indo-Australian Plate. However, recent studies suggest that the two plates have once again split apart and have been separate plates for at least 3 million years and likely longer.[3] The Australian plate includes the continent of Australia, including Tasmania, as well portions of New Guinea, New Zealand, and the Indian Ocean basin.

Geography[edit]

The northeasterly side is a complex but generally convergent boundary with the Pacific Plate. The Pacific Plate is subducting under the Australian Plate, which forms the Tonga and Kermadec Trenches, and the parallel Tonga and Kermadec island arcs. It has also uplifted the eastern parts of New Zealand's North Island.

The continent of Zealandia, which separated from Australia 85 million years ago and stretches from New Caledonia in the north to New Zealand’s subantarctic islands in the south, is now being torn apart along the transform boundary marked by the Alpine Fault.

South of New Zealand the boundary becomes a transitional transform-convergent boundary, the Macquarie Fault Zone, where the Australian Plate is beginning to subduct under the Pacific Plate along the Puysegur Trench. Extending southwest of this trench is the Macquarie Ridge.

The southerly side is a divergent boundary with the Antarctic Plate called the Southeast Indian Ridge (SEIR).

The subducting boundary through Indonesia is not parallel to the biogeographical Wallace line that separates the indigenous fauna of Asia from that of Australasia. The eastern islands of Indonesia lie mainly on the Eurasian Plate, but have Australasian-related fauna and flora. Southeasterly lies the Sunda Shelf.

Origins[edit]

Depositional age of the Mount Barren Group on the southern margin of the Yilgarn Craton and zircon provenance analysis support the hypothesis that collisions between the PilbaraYilgarn and YilgarnGawler Cratons assembled a proto-Australian continent approximately 1,696 million years ago (Dawson et al. 2002).[4]

References[edit]