The breakup of supercontinents over the last 443 million years is responsible for the richness of global marine life, researchers show in a new study. In fact, a "significant component" of marine animal diversity is due to the creation and then separation of just one supercontinent – Pangaea - more than 175 million years ago.
What it tells us: Biologists have wondered for decades why the animal world is so diverse across the planet. They began to hypothesize in the 1970s that plate tectonics causing shifts in the continental crust were probably responsible for the global dispersal of species. But, at the time, they had no way to prove that biodiversity grew when supercontinents split apart.