Get Tectonic Plate essential facts below. View Videos or join the Tectonic Plate discussion. Add Tectonic Plate to your PopFlock.com topic list for future reference or share this resource on social media.
A list of the relatively moving sections of the lithosphere of Earth
Oceanic crust – The uppermost layer of the oceanic portion of a tectonic plate
Shield – A large stable area of exposed Precambrian crystalline rock
Supercontinent – Landmass comprising more than one continental core, or craton
Tectonic plate – Continuous section of the lithosphere of the Earth which is moving relative to adjacent plates
Terrane – Fragment of crustal material formed on, or broken off from, one tectonic plate and accreted or "sutured" to crust lying on another plate
Geologists generally agree that the following tectonic plates currently exist on the Earth's surface with roughly definable boundaries. Tectonic plates are sometimes subdivided into three fairly arbitrary categories: major (or primary) plates, minor (or secondary) plates, and microplates (or tertiary plates).
These plates comprise the bulk of the continents and the Pacific Ocean. For purposes of this list, a major plate is any plate with an area greater than 20 million km2.
Pacific Plate – An oceanic tectonic plate under the Pacific Ocean - 103,300,000 km2
North American Plate – Large tectonic plate including most of North America, Greenland and part of Siberia. - 75,900,000 km2
Eurasian Plate – A tectonic plate which includes most of the continent of Eurasia - 67,800,000 km2
African Plate – Tectonic plate underlying Africa west of the East African Rift - 61,300,000 km2
Antarctic Plate – A tectonic plate containing the continent of Antarctica and extending outward under the surrounding oceans - 60,900,000 km2
Indo-Australian Plate – A major tectonic plate formed by the fusion of the Indian and Australian plates - 58,900,000 km2 often considered two plates:
Australian Plate – A major tectonic plate, originally a part of the ancient continent of Gondwana - 47,000,000 km2
Indian Plate – Major Tectonic plate that got separated from Gondwana - 11,900,000 km2
South American Plate – Major tectonic plate which includes most of South America and a large part of the south Atlantic - 43,600,000 km2
These smaller plates are often not shown on major plate maps, as the majority do not comprise significant land area. For purposes of this list, a minor plate is any plate with an area less than 20 million km2 but greater than 1 million km2.
Somali Plate – Minor tectonic plate including the east coast of Africa and the adjoining seabed - 16,700,000 km2
Nazca Plate – Oceanic tectonic plate in the eastern Pacific Ocean basin - 15,600,000 km2[note 1]
Burma Plate – A minor tectonic plate in Southeast Asia - 1,100,000 km2
New Hebrides Plate – Minor tectonic plate in the Pacific Ocean near Vanuatu - 1,100,000 km2
These plates are often grouped with an adjacent major plate on a major plate map. For purposes of this list, a microplate is any plate with an area less than 1 million km2. Some models identify more minor plates within current orogens (events that lead to a large structural deformation of the Earth's lithosphere) like the Apulian, Explorer, Gorda, and Philippine Mobile Belt plates. There may be scientific consensus as to whether such plates should be considered distinct portions of the crust; thus, new research could change this list.
Lwandle Plate – A mainly oceanic tectonic microplate off the southeast coast of Africa
Madagascar Plate – A tectonic plate formerly part of the supercontinent Gondwana
Rovuma Plate – One of three tectonic microplates that contribute to the Nubian Plate and the Somali Plate
Mariana Plate – A small tectonic plate west of the Mariana Trench
Philippine Mobile Belt, also known as Philippine Microplate – Complex portion of the tectonic boundary between the Eurasian Plate and the Philippine Sea Plate, comprising most of the country of the Philippines
In the history of Earth many tectonic plates have come into existence and have over the intervening years either accreted onto other plates to form larger plates, rifted into smaller plates, or have been crushed by or subducted under other plates.
Supercontinent – Landmass comprising more than one continental core, or craton
Rodinia – Hypothetical neoproterozoic supercontinent from between about a billion to about three quarters of a billion years ago
Ur – Proposed archaean supercontinent from about 3.1 billion years ago
Vaalbara – Archaean supercontinent from about 3.6 to 2.7 billion years ago
Ancient plates and cratons
Not all plate boundaries are easily defined, especially for ancient pieces of crust. The following list of ancient cratons, microplates, plates, shields, terranes, and zones no longer exist as separate plates. Cratons are the oldest and most stable parts of the continental lithosphere and shields are the exposed area of a craton(s). Microplates are tiny tectonic plates, terranes are fragments of crustal material formed on one tectonic plate and accreted to crust lying on another plate, and zones are bands of similar rocks on a plate formed by terrane accretion or native rock formation. Terranes may or may not have originated as independent microplates: a terrane may not contain the full thickness of the lithosphere.
Atlantica – An ancient continent formed during the Proterozoic about 2 billion years ago
East European Craton – The core of the Baltica proto-plate and consists of the Fennoscandia, Volgo-Uralia and Sarmatia crustal segments
Baltic Shield, also known as Fennoscandian Shield – A segment of the Earth's crust in the East European Craton, representing a large part of Fennoscandia, northwestern Russia and the northern Baltic Sea
Junggar Plate – Geographical region in Northwest China corresponding to the northern half of Xinjiang
Karelian Craton – Region comprising the Scandinavian Peninsula, Finland, Karelia, and the Kola Peninsula
Kazakhstania – A geological region in Central Asia which consists of the area roughly centered on Lake Balkhash, north and east of the Aral Sea, south of the Siberian craton and west of the Altai Mountains
Avalonia – microcontinent in the Paleozoic era (Canada, Great Britain, and United States)
Carolina Plate – exotic terrane from central Georgia to central Virginia in the United States
Churchill Craton – The northwest section of the Canadian Shield from southern Saskatchewan and Alberta to northern Nunavut (Canada)
Farallon Plate – An ancient oceanic plate that has mostly subducted under the west coast of the North American Plate (split into the Cocos, Explorer, Juan de Fuca, Gorda Plates, Nazca Plate, and Rivera Plates)
Hearne Craton – A craton in northern Canada which, together with the Rae Craton, forms the Western Churchill Province (Canada)
Laurentian Craton, also known as North American Craton – A large continental craton that forms the ancient geological core of the North American continent (Canada and United States)
Insular Plate – Ancient oceanic plate that began subducting under the west-coast of North America around the early Cretaceous time
Intermontane Plate – Ancient oceanic tectonic plate on the west coast of North America about 195 million years ago
Izanagi Plate – An ancient tectonic plate, which was subducted beneath the Okhotsk Plate
Nain Province – Part of the North Atlantic Craton in Labrador, Canada (Canada)
North Atlantic Craton – An Archaean craton exposed in southern West Greenland, the Nain Province in Labrador, and the Lewisian complex in northwestern Scotland
Nova Scotia Plate
Rae Craton – An Archean craton in northern Canada north of the Superior Craton (Canada)
Sask Craton (Canada)
Sclavia Craton – A late Archean supercraton thought to be parental to the Slave and Wyoming Cratons in North America, the Dharwar Craton in southern India, and the Zimbabwe Craton in southern Africa (Canada)
Slave Craton – An Archaean craton in the north-western Canadian Shield, in Northwest Territories and Nunavut (Canada)
^Timothy M. Kusky; Erkan Toraman & Tsilavo Raharimahefa (2006-11-20). "The Great Rift Valley of Madagascar: An extension of the Africa-Somali diffusive plate boundary?". International Association for Gondwana Research Published by Elsevier B.V.
Cordani, U.G.; A. Cardona; D.M. Jiménez; L. Dunyl, and A.P. Nutman. 2003. Geochronology of Proterozoic basement from the Colombian Andes: Tectonic history of remnants from a fragmented Grenville Belt, 1-10. 10o Congreso Geológico Chileno.