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What are the Differences and Similarities Between Plate Tectonics and Continental Drift?

Updated on May 10, 2017

The Differences and Similarities Between Plate Tectonics and Continental Drift

First, since there are many similarities between Plate Tectonics and Continental Drift, let's brush up on the definitions of the two. Plate Tectonics is a theory of global tectonics in which the lithosphere is divided into a number of crustal plates, each of which moves on the asthenosphere. Continental Drift, however, is a theory developed by Alfred Wager who suggested that in the past, there was a super continent called Pangaea. Over time, this super continent split apart to form the seven continents we have today. One of the key difference between the newer plate tectonics and continental drift theories is that Wegener's original theory of continental drift, and the more modern ideas called plate tectonics is that Wegener believed that each continent was propelled through the solid ocean floor. Some geologists thought this was completely absurd. The newer theory of plate tectonics states that the entire crust of the earth is broken into six large plates and many, many smaller ones. Any plate may consist of ocean floor and/or part of a continent or islands. The boundaries between plates are the mid-ocean ridges, where new oceanic crust is formed and plates move apart; ocean trenches and young mountains, where plates come together and older ocean crust is overridden and returned to the interior. A similarity between the two theories, however, is that both of the theories suggest the Earth is constantly moving. The theory of plate tectonics suggests that the plates that float on top of the asthenosphere, which hold continents, are always moving, and therefore have a tendency to bump into each other. Places where the plates meet each other are known as faults. There are usually some very large earthquakes near, or in faults. A very large fault, called the San Andreas fault, is located in California. The theory of Continental drift, suggests a very similar idea. However, this theory states that all the continents once fit together into a very large continent. There is plenty of evidence that supports this, too. You can find very similar fossils, and geology on both the east coasts of South America, and the west coast of Africa. Plus, they look like they could fit together, too. There is also similar evidence on both the east and west coasts of the U.S. and Europe. Although there are more similarities than differences, you have to remember that both theories suggest the exact same thing.

This information is accredited to:

Wilson, J. Tuzo. "Contiential Drift." Plate Tectonics. Vol. 7, Colliers Encyclopedia,

Feb. 1996. Web. 18 May 2012. <>

The HubPages editor software doesn't seem to enjoy working with MLA. I do acknowledge the mistake in the lack of indent in the Mini-Bibliography.

Please Leave a Nice Comment.

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    • profile image


      2 years ago

      earth flat

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      you are a very knowledgeable man

    • profile image

      your mom 

      5 years ago


    • profile image

      THE GR8 GARY 

      5 years ago

      GR8 FAKS M8 I R8 8/8

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      That was immensely helpful! Thanks a lot!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I remember learning this in grade 7

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 

      8 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      This brings back some of my Natural Science and Geology 11 subjects back in college. I still find it interesting though. This is good refresher and resource for students.


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