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Earth Science Chapter 10 Definitions Sources: Holt Earth Science textbook

Theory of Continental Drift

The theory hypothesized by scientist Alfred Wegener stating that "the continents once formed part of a single supercontinent that began breaking up into smaller continents about 200 million years ago (during the Mesozoic Era)

Mid-Ocean Ridges

Undersea mountain ranges through the center of which run steep, narrow valleys

Sea-floor spreading

The process by which new ocean lithosphere(sea floor) forms as magma and rises to Earth's surface and solidifies at a mid-ocean ridge


The study of the magnetic properties inside rocks


a crack


Lava from within Earth

Theory of Plate Tectonics

The theory that explains why and how continents move and is the study of the formation of features in Earth's crust

Divergent boundary

The process in which two tectonic plates move away from each other

Convergent boundary

The process in which two tectonic plates move towards each other/collide with each other

Transform boundary

The process in which two tectonic plates slide towards each other horizontally

Fracture zones

Short segments of mid-ocean ridge are connected with these


The movement of heated material due to differences in density that are created by differences in temperatures

Convection cell

An area created when cooler, denser water sinks and the warmer water rises to the surface

Ridge push

A force exerted by the asthenosphere when it pushes on the rest of the plate

Slab pull

A force exerted when the lithosphere becomes dense and subducts into the asthenosphere. The edge pulls the rest of the plate with it.


Large areas of stable rock


Rocks within cratons


The process by which a continent breaks apart


A piece of lithosphere that has a unique geologic history that differs from the histories of surrounding lithosphere


The process in which a terrane becomes part of a continent


Small volcanic islands sometimes formed from terranes


Small coral islands that may form terranes

Supercontinent cycle

The process by which supercontinents form and break apart over time


The supercontinent that existed about 300 million years ago (during the Paleozoic Era)


The giant ocean that surrounded Pangaea

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