UPSC Exam   »   Major and Minor Tectonic Plates

Major and Minor Tectonic Plates

Major and Minor Tectonic Plates UPSC

Tectonic plates are and important topic for UPSC exams. It is an important part of the GS 1 mains syllabus and it also forms an important segment of UPSC Prelims 2023. In this article we will discuss tectonic plates and a list of major and minor tectonic plates of earth.

 

What is plate tectonics?

  • Plate tectonics was a theory developed in 1960s that explains how major landforms on earth were created as a result of Earth’s subterrain movement.
  • The theory transformed the earth sciences by explaining many phenomena, including mountain building events, volcanoes, and earthquakes.

 

Major and Minor Tectonic Plates_40.1

 

There are three main types of plate boundaries

  • Divergent: extensional; the plates move apart. Spreading ridges, basin-range
  • Convergent: compressional; plates move toward each other. Includes: Subduction zones and mountain building.
  • Transform: shearing; plates slide past each other. Strike-slip motion.

 

What is a tectonic plate?

  • A tectonic plate or a lithospheric plate is a massive, irregularly shaped slab of solid rock, generally composed of both continental and oceanic lithosphere.
  • The size of the tectonic plates can vary greatly, from a few hundred to thousands of kilometers.
  • Plate thickness also varies greatly, ranging from less than 15 km for young oceanic lithosphere to about 200 km or more for ancient continental lithosphere.

 

Major and minor plates of earth

  • Tectonic plates are sometimes subdivided into three categories: major (or primary) plates, minor (or secondary) plates, and microplates (or tertiary plates).

 

List of major plates of earth

Plates Description
African Plate It is a major tectonic plate underlying Africa west of the East African Rift.
Antarctic Plate It is a major tectonic plate containing Antarctica and the surrounding ocean floor.
Eurasian Plate It is a tectonic plate which includes most of the continent of Eurasia.
Indo-Australian plate

1.      Australian Plate

2.      Indian Plate

It is a major tectonic plate formed by the fusion of the Indian and Australian plates.

1.      Major tectonic plate, originally a part of the ancient continent of Gondwana

2.      A minor tectonic plate that got separated from Gondwana

North American Plate It is a large tectonic plate including most of North America, Greenland and part of Siberia
Pacific Plate It is an oceanic tectonic plate under the Pacific Ocean.
South American Plate It is a major tectonic plate which includes most of South America and a large part of the south Atlantic

Major and Minor Tectonic Plates_50.1

List of Minor plates of earth

Plate Description
Amurian Plate A minor tectonic plate in eastern Asia
Arabian plate Minor tectonic plate
Burma plate Minor tectonic plate in Southeast Asia
Caribbean plate A mostly oceanic tectonic plate including part of Central America and the Caribbean Sea
Caroline plate Minor oceanic tectonic plate north of New Guinea
Cocos plate Young oceanic tectonic plate beneath the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of Central America
Indian plate A minor tectonic plate that got separated from Gondwana
Nazca plate Oceanic tectonic plate in the eastern Pacific Ocean basin
New Hebrides plate Minor tectonic plate in the Pacific Ocean near Vanuatu
Okhotsk plate Minor tectonic plate in Asia
Philippine sea plate Oceanic tectonic plate to the east of the Philippines
Scotia plate Minor oceanic tectonic plate between the South American and Antarctic Plates
Somali plate Minor tectonic plate including the east coast of Africa and the adjoining seabed
Sunda plate Tectonic plate including Southeast Asia
Yangtze plate Small tectonic plate carrying the bulk of southern China

 

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