Indo-Australian Plate

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  The Indo-Australian plate, shown as divided between the Indian Plate and the Australian Plate

The Indo-Australian Plate is a major tectonic plate that includes the continent of Australia and surrounding ocean, and extends northwest to include the Indian subcontinent and adjacent waters. It was formed by the fusion of Indian and Australian plates 43 million years ago.[1] Recent studies, and seismic events such as the 2012 Indian Ocean earthquake, suggest that the Indo-Australian Plate may be in the process of breaking up into two separate plates due primarily to stresses induced by the collision of the Indo-Australian Plate with Eurasia along the Himalayas.[2]

The eastern part (Australia) is moving northward at the rate of 5.6 cm per year while the western part (India) is moving only at the rate of 3.7 cm per year due to the impediment of the Himalayas. This differential movement is resulting in the compression of the plate near its center at Sumatra and a potential division into the Indian and Australian Plates.[3][4][5] The two protoplates or subplates are generally referred to as the Indian Plate and the Australian Plate.

A third Capricorn Plate may also be separating off of the west side of the Indian subplate.[6]


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 1696±7 Ma (Dawson et al. 2002).[7]

Geographical extent[edit]

The Indian subcontinent, Meganesia (Australia, New Guinea, and Tasmania), New Zealand, and New Caledonia are all fragments of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana. Seafloor spreading separated these land masses from one another, but as the spreading centers became inactive the land masses fused into a single plate.

Recent[when?] GPS measurement[by whom?] in Australia confirms the plate’s velocity of 67 mm/yr at 35 degrees east of north. Note also the same directions and velocities for points at Auckland, Christmas Island and southern India. A slight difference in local direction at Auckland is presumed due to a slight buckling of the plate there, where it is being compressed by the Pacific Plate.

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 westerly side is a transform boundary with the Arabian Plate called the Owen Fracture Zone, and a divergent boundary with the African Plate called the Central Indian Ridge (CIR). The northerly side of the Indo-Australian Plate is a convergent boundary with the Eurasian Plate forming the Himalaya and Hindu Kush mountains.

The northwest side of the Indo-Australian plate forms a subducting boundary with the Eurasian plate on the borders of the Indian Ocean from Bangladesh, to Myanmar to the south-west of the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java.

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.