Pangea and the Lower Mantle

Le Pichon X., Şengör A. M. C. , İmren C.

TECTONICS, vol.38, no.10, pp.3479-3504, 2019 (Journal Indexed in SCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 38 Issue: 10
  • Publication Date: 2019
  • Doi Number: 10.1029/2018tc005445
  • Title of Journal : TECTONICS
  • Page Numbers: pp.3479-3504


We show that the peripheral Pangea subduction zone closely followed a polar great circle. We relate it to the band of faster-than-average velocities in lowermost mantle. Both structures have an axis of symmetry in the equatorial plane. Assuming geologically long-term stationarity of the deep mantle structure, we propose to use the axis of symmetry of Pangea to define an absolute reference frame. This reference frame is close to the slab remnants and NNR frames of reference but disagrees with hot spot-based frames. We apply this model to the last 400 Myr. We show that a hemispheric supercontinent appeared as early as 400 Ma. However, at 400 Ma, the axis of symmetry was situated quite far south and progressively migrated within the equatorial plane that it reached at 300 Ma. From 300 to 110-100 Ma, it maintained its position within the equatorial plane. We propose that the stationarity of Pangea within a single hemisphere surrounded by subduction zones led to thermal isolation of the underlying asthenosphere and consequent heating as well as a large accumulation of hot plume material. We discuss some important implications of our analysis concerning the proposition that the succession of supercontinents and dispersed continents is controlled by an alternation from a degree 1 to a degree 2 planform.