Tectonic History of Antarctica Over the Past 200 Million Years

Bryan C. Storey, Roi Granot

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The tectonic evolution of Antarctica in the Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras was marked by igneous activity that formed as a result of simultaneous continental rifting and subduction processes acting during the final stages of the southward drift of Gondwana towards the South Pole. For the most part, continental rifting resulted in the progressive disintegration of the Gondwana supercontinent from Middle Jurassic times to the final isolation of Antarctica at the South Pole following the Cenozoic opening of the surrounding ocean basins, and the separation of Antarctica from South America and Australia. The initial rifting into East and West Gondwana was proceeded by emplacement of large igneous provinces preserved in present-day South America, Africa and Antarctica. Continued rifting within Antarctica did not lead to continental separation but to the development of the West Antarctic Rift System, dividing the continent into the East and West Antarctic plates, and uplift of the Transantarctic Mountains. Motion between East and West Antarctica has been accommodated by a series of discrete rifting pulses with a westward shift and concentration of the motion throughout the Cenozoic leading to crustal thinning, subsidence, elevated heat flow conditions and rift-related magmatic activity. Contemporaneous with the disintegration of Gondwana and the isolation of Antarctica, subduction processes were active along the palaeo-Pacific margin of Antarctica recorded by magmatic arcs, accretionary complexes, and forearc and back-arc basin sequences. A low in magmatic activity between 156 and 142 Ma suggests that subduction may have ceased during this time. Today, following the gradual cessation of the Antarctic rifting and surrounding subduction, the Antarctic continent is situated close to the centre of a large Antarctic Plate which, with the exception of an active margin on the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, is surrounded by active spreading ridges.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGeological Society Memoir
PublisherGeological Society of London
Number of pages9
StatePublished - 15 Jan 2021

Publication series

NameGeological Society Memoir
ISSN (Print)0435-4052

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology


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