African Plate
The African Plate is a tectonic plate which includes the continent
A continent is one of several very large landmasses on Earth. They are generally identified by convention rather than any strict criteria, with seven regions commonly regarded as continents—they are : Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia.Plate tectonics is...

 of Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

, as well as oceanic crust which lies between the continent and various surrounding ocean ridges.


The westerly side is a divergent boundary
Divergent boundary
In plate tectonics, a divergent boundary or divergent plate boundary is a linear feature that exists between two tectonic plates that are moving away from each other. Divergent boundaries within continents initially produce rifts which produce rift valleys...

 with the North American Plate
North American Plate
The North American Plate is a tectonic plate covering most of North America, Greenland, Cuba, Bahamas, and parts of Siberia, Japan and Iceland. It extends eastward to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and westward to the Chersky Range in eastern Siberia. The plate includes both continental and oceanic crust...

 to the north and the South American Plate
South American Plate
The South American Plate is a continental tectonic plate which includes the continent of South America and also a sizeable region of the Atlantic Ocean seabed extending eastward to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge....

 to the south forming the central and southern part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge
Mid-Atlantic Ridge
The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is a mid-ocean ridge, a divergent tectonic plate boundary located along the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, and part of the longest mountain range in the world. It separates the Eurasian Plate and North American Plate in the North Atlantic, and the African Plate from the South...

. The African plate is bounded on the northeast by the Arabian Plate
Arabian Plate
The Arabian Plate is one of three tectonic plates which have been moving northward over millions of years and colliding with the Eurasian Plate...

, the southeast by the Indo-Australian Plate
Indo-Australian Plate
The Indo-Australian Plate is a major tectonic plate that includes the continent of Australia and surrounding ocean, and extends northwest to include the Indian subcontinent and adjacent waters...

, the north by the Eurasian Plate
Eurasian Plate
The Eurasian Plate is a tectonic plate which includes most of the continent of Eurasia , with the notable exceptions of the Indian subcontinent, the Arabian subcontinent, and the area east of the Chersky Range in East Siberia...

 and the Anatolian Plate
Anatolian Plate
The Anatolian Plate is a continental tectonic plate consisting primarily of the country of Turkey.The easterly side is a boundary with the Arabian Plate, the East Anatolian Fault, a left lateral transform fault....

, and on the south by the Antarctic Plate
Antarctic Plate
The Antarctic Plate is a tectonic plate covering the continent of Antarctica and extending outward under the surrounding oceans. The Antarctic Plate has a boundary with the Nazca Plate, the South American Plate, the African Plate, the Indo-Australian Plate, the Scotia Plate and a divergent boundary...

. All of these are divergent or spreading boundaries with the exception of the northern boundary with the Eurasian Plate (except for a short segment near the Azores
The Archipelago of the Azores is composed of nine volcanic islands situated in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, and is located about west from Lisbon and about east from the east coast of North America. The islands, and their economic exclusion zone, form the Autonomous Region of the...

, the Terceira Rift
Terceira Rift
The Terceira Rift is a geological rift located amidst the Azores islands in the Atlantic Ocean. It runs between the Azores Triple Junction to the west and the Azores-Gibraltar Transform Fault to the southeast. It separates the Eurasian Plate to the north from the African Plate to the south. The...



The African Plate includes several craton
A craton is an old and stable part of the continental lithosphere. Having often survived cycles of merging and rifting of continents, cratons are generally found in the interiors of tectonic plates. They are characteristically composed of ancient crystalline basement rock, which may be covered by...

s, stable blocks of old crust with deep roots in the subcontinental lithospheric mantle
Mantle (geology)
The mantle is a part of a terrestrial planet or other rocky body large enough to have differentiation by density. The interior of the Earth, similar to the other terrestrial planets, is chemically divided into layers. The mantle is a highly viscous layer between the crust and the outer core....

, and less stable terranes, which came together to form the African continent during the assembly of the supercontinent
In geology, a supercontinent is a landmass comprising more than one continental core, or craton. The assembly of cratons and accreted terranes that form Eurasia qualifies as a supercontinent today.-History:...

 Pangea around 550 million years ago. The cratons are, from south to north, the Kalahari craton
Kalahari craton
The Kalahari craton is a craton, an old and stable part of the continental lithosphere with thick crust and deep lithospheric roots extending up to a few hundred kilometers into the Earth's mantle, that occupies a large portion of South Africa and consists of the Kaapvaal, the Zimbabwe craton, the...

, Congo craton
Congo craton
The Congo craton, covered by the Palaeozoic-to-recent Congo basin, is an ancient Precambrian craton that with four others makes up the modern continent of Africa. These cratons were formed between about 3.6 and 2.0 billion years ago and have been tectonically stable since that time...

, Tanzania craton and West African craton
West African craton
The West African craton is one of the five large masses, or cratons, of the Precambrian basement rock of Africa that make up the African Plate, the others being the Kalahari craton, Congo craton, Saharan Metacraton and Tanzania craton. These land masses came together in the late Precambrian and...

The cratons were widely separated in the past, but came together during the Pan-African orogeny
Pan-African orogeny
The Pan-African orogeny was a series of major Neoproterozoic orogenic events which related to the formation of the supercontinents Gondwana and Pannotia about 600 million years ago....

 and stayed together when Gondwana split up.
The cratons are connected by orogenic belts
Orogeny refers to forces and events leading to a severe structural deformation of the Earth's crust due to the engagement of tectonic plates. Response to such engagement results in the formation of long tracts of highly deformed rock called orogens or orogenic belts...

, regions of highly deformed rock where the tectonic plates
Tectonic Plates
Tectonic Plates is a 1992 independent Canadian film directed by Peter Mettler. Mettler also wrote the screenplay based on the play by Robert Lepage. The film stars Marie Gignac, Céline Bonnier and Robert Lepage.-Plot summary:...

 have engaged.
The Saharan Metacraton
Saharan Metacraton
The Saharan Metacraton is a term used by some geologists to describe a large area of continental crust in the north-central part of Africa. Where a craton is an old and stable part of the lithosphere, the term "metacraton" is used to describe a craton that has been remobilized during an orogenic...

 has been tentatively identified as the remains of a craton that has become detached from the subcontinental lithospheric mantle, but alternatively may consist of a collection of unrelated crustal fragments swept together during the Pan-African orogeny.

In some areas, the cratons are covered by sedimentary basin
Sedimentary basin
The term sedimentary basin is used to refer to any geographical feature exhibiting subsidence and consequent infilling by sedimentation. As the sediments are buried, they are subjected to increasing pressure and begin the process of lithification...

s, such as the Tindouf basin
Tindouf Basin
The Tindouf Basin is a major sedimentary basin in West Africa, to the south of the little Atlas region, Morocco. It stretches from west to east about 700km and covers about 100,000 km2, mostly in Algeria but with a western extension into Morocco / Western Sahara.In the Ordovician period the...

, Taoudeni basin
Taoudeni basin
The Taoudeni Basin is a major geological formation in West Africa named after the Taoudenni village in northern Mali. It covers large parts of the West African craton in Mauritania and Mali. It is of considerable interest due to its possible reserves of oil....

 and Congo basin
Congo Basin
The Congo Basin is the sedimentary basin that is the drainage of the Congo River of west equatorial Africa. The basin begins in the highlands of the East African Rift system with input from the Chambeshi River, the Uele and Ubangi Rivers in the upper reaches and the Lualaba River draining wetlands...

, where the underlying archaic
Archaic may refer to a period of time preceding a "classical period":*List of archaeological periods**Archaic Greece**Archaic period in the Americas**Early Dynastic Period of Egypt*Archaic Homo sapiens, people who lived about 300,000 to 30,000 B.P...

 crust is overlaid by more recent Neoproterozoic
The Neoproterozoic Era is the unit of geologic time from 1,000 to 542.0 ± 1.0 million years ago. The terminal Era of the formal Proterozoic Eon , it is further subdivided into the Tonian, Cryogenian, and Ediacaran Periods...

 sediments. The plate includes shear zone
Shear zone
A shear zone is a very important structural discontinuity surface in the Earth's crust and upper mantle. It forms as a response to inhomogeneous deformation partitioning strain into planar or curviplanar high-strain zones. Intervening blocks stay relatively unaffected by the deformation...

s such as the Central African Shear Zone
Central African Shear Zone
The Central African Shear Zone is a wrench fault system extending in an ENE direction from the Gulf of Guinea through Cameroon into Sudan.The structure is not well understood....

 (CASZ) where, in the past, two sections of the crust were moving in opposite directions, and rifts such as the Anza trough
Anza trough
The Anza trough is a rift in Kenya that was formed in the Jurassic Period of the Mesozoic Era.The trough runs inland from the coast in the northwest direction....

 where the crust was pulled apart, and the resulting depression filled with more modern sediment.

Modern movements

The African Plate is rifting in the eastern interior along the East African Rift
East African Rift
The East African Rift is an active continental rift zone in eastern Africa that appears to be a developing divergent tectonic plate boundary. It is part of the larger Great Rift Valley. The rift is a narrow zone in which the African Plate is in the process of splitting into two new tectonic plates...

. This rift zone separates the Nubian Plate to the west from the Somali Plate
Somali Plate
The Somali Plate or Somalian Plate is a tectonic plate that is being formed as the African Plate is splitting along the East African Rift. The part of the African Plate which lies on the other side of the rift is sometimes referred to as the Nubian Plate...

 to the east. One hypothesis proposes the existence of a mantle plume
Mantle plume
A mantle plume is a hypothetical thermal diapir of abnormally hot rock that nucleates at the core-mantle boundary and rises through the Earth's mantle. Such plumes were invoked in 1971 to explain volcanic regions that were not thought to be explicable by the then-new theory of plate tectonics. Some...

 beneath the Afar region, while an opposing hypothesis asserts that the rifting is merely a zone of maximum weakness where the African Plate is deforming as plates to its east are moving rapidly northward.

The African Plate's speed is estimated at around 2.15 cm (0.846456692913386 in) per year. It has been moving over the past 100 million years or so in a general northeast direction. This is drawing it closer to the Eurasian Plate, causing subduction where oceanic crust is converging with continental crust (e.g. portions of the central and eastern Mediterranean). In the western Mediterranean, the relative motions of the Eurasian and African plates produce a combination of lateral and compressive forces, concentrated in a zone known as the Azores-Gibraltar Fault Zone
Azores-Gibraltar Transform Fault
The Azores-Gibraltar Transform Fault, also called the Azores-Gibraltar fault zone , is a major geologic fault which runs eastward from the eastern end of the Terceira Rift in the Azores, extending through the Strait of Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean Sea. It forms part of the tectonic boundary...

. Along its northeast margin, the African Plate is bounded by the Red Sea Rift
Red Sea Rift
The Red Sea Rift is a spreading center between two tectonic plates, the African Plate and the Arabian Plate. It extends down the length of the Red Sea, stretching from the southern end of the Dead Sea Transform to a triple junction with the Aden Ridge and the East African Rift in the Afar...

 where the Arabian Plate
Arabian Plate
The Arabian Plate is one of three tectonic plates which have been moving northward over millions of years and colliding with the Eurasian Plate...

 is moving away from the African Plate.

The New England hotspot
New England hotspot
The New England hotspot, also referred to as the Great Meteor hotspot, is a long-lived volcanic hotspot in the Atlantic Ocean. The hotspot's most recent eruptive center is the Great Meteor Seamount, and it probably created a short line of mid to late-Tertiary age seamounts on the African Plate but...

 in the Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

 has probably created a short line of mid to late-Tertiary
The Tertiary is a deprecated term for a geologic period 65 million to 2.6 million years ago. The Tertiary covered the time span between the superseded Secondary period and the Quaternary...

 age seamount
A seamount is a mountain rising from the ocean seafloor that does not reach to the water's surface , and thus is not an island. These are typically formed from extinct volcanoes, that rise abruptly and are usually found rising from a seafloor of depth. They are defined by oceanographers as...

s on the African Plate but appears to be currently inactive.

External links

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