See world change over millions of years at Ancient Earth site

At the transition from the Permian to the Triassic age, 220 million years ago, the first small dinosaurs appeared on earth. —

Picturing the world as it looked millions of years ago is too much for most of us. But now an American academic has come up with a way to help, through a website showing how it looked.

The globe as we know it today is only a snapshot: The Earth's continents are always in motion. The distribution of land and sea has been constantly changing for millions upon millions of years due to the movement of tectonic plates.

US geologist Christopher R Scotese has taken it upon himself to research and illustrate the movements of these land masses with his Paleomap Project. His virtual reconstruction of plate tectonics over the last 1,000 million years is available on the Ancient Earth Globe site programmed by developer Ian Webster.

Visitors to the site can see the globe rotating slowly, and can zoom in and out with the mouse wheel or change the view of the globe by moving it while holding down the left mouse button.

If you don't like the automatic rotation, you can switch it off at the top right under "Display Options”. To set a certain city as a viewing anchor, you can do this in the upper left corner.

At the very top, in the middle of the page, you can now go on a 750-million-year journey through time. Set how many millions of years you want to go back, and then see how the seas and coastlines of the Earth's land masses looked at that time.

It's almost even more interesting to time travel using major geological events as landmarks and signposts. In the top right-hand corner, next to "Jump to", you will find a menu with events such as the formation of the first coral reefs, the appearance of the first land plants or even the first dinosaurs. All is explained in the screen's bottom-left corner. – dpa

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