Pangea, also spelled Pangaea, in early geologic time, was a supercontinent that incorporated almost all the landmasses on Earth. Pangea was surrounded by a global ocean called Panthalassa, and it was fully assembled by the Early Permian Epoch. The supercontinent began to break apart about 200 million years ago, during the Early Jurassic Epoch (201 million to 174 million years ago), eventually forming the modern continents and the Atlantic and Indian oceans. Pangea’s existence was first proposed in 1912 by German meteorologist Alfred Wegener as a part of his theory of continental drift.
Pangea’s formal conceptualization began with Wegener’s work in 1910. Like other scientists before him, Wegener became impressed with the similarity in the coastlines of eastern South America and western Africa and speculated that those lands had once joined together. He theorized that all present-day land mass had all come together and form a single large one. To which Wegener would call this super land Pangea.
The continent we now know as North America was continuous with Africa, South America, and Europe, and they all existed as a single continent Pangea. Pangea began to be torn apart when a three-pronged fissure grew between Africa, South America, and North America. Rifting began as magma welled up through the weakness in the crust, creating a volcanic rift zone. Volcanic eruptions spewed ash and volcanic debris across the landscape as these severed continent-sized fragments of Pangea diverged. The gash between the spreading continents gradually grew to form a new ocean basin, the Atlantic. The rift zone known as the mid-Atlantic ridge continued to provide the raw volcanic materials for the expanding ocean basin.
Pangea was C-shaped, with the bulk of its mass stretching between Earth’s northern and southern polar regions. The curve of the eastern edge of the supercontinent contained an embayment called the Tethys Sea. The paleo-Tethys Ocean took shape during Pangea’s initial assembly phase. This Ocean was slowly replaced by the Neo-Tethys Ocean after a strip of continental material known as the Cimmerian continent. Detached from northern Gondwana and rotated northward.
When Pangea was breaking apart it would lead to the current species that was alive at the time which were the dinosaurs during the Triassic period of the dinosaurs. When the Triassic period ended, Pangea split into two sections: Laurasia in the North and Gondwana in the south. Despite the separation, similarities in their fossils show that there were some land bridges between the two continents, which is where some dinosaurs would move there and evolve in their respective area.
The mechanism for the breakup of Pangea is now known as plate tectonic shifts, rather than Wegener’s outdated concept of continental drift, which simply stated that Earth’s were once joined together into the super continent that lasted for most of geologic time. Plate tectonics states that Earth’s other shells consist of large rigid plates that move apart at oceanics ridges, come together at subduction zones, or slip past one another along fault lines. The pattern of seafloor spreading indicates that Pangea did not break apart all at once. But rather fragmented at different points in time.