The African plate is a large tectonic plate, one of the many that cover the surface of the Earth. Tectonic plates float on top of the hot liquid magma of the Earth’s mantle like chunks of ice on a lake. The African plate makes up a large part of the Earth’s crust, and includes not only the continent of Africa, but also large amounts of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
Africa was once the center of Pangaea, the supercontinent that existed before the continents drifted apart. Since then South Africa, India and Antarctica have split away from Africa. As a result, Africa has three divergent boundaries. At a divergent boundary the continents shift away, and hot magma from the earth’s interior seeps up from the resulting gap, creating new seafloor.
The African plate itself seems to be splitting apart. The East African Rift valley runs from Ethiopia southward, creating some of Africa’s largest lakes, such as Lake Tanganyika. This rift is a result of the eastern area of Africa diverging from the western area. Geologists debate whether this means that Africa is in fact composed of two plates, or if the African plate itself is splitting into two pieces.
While people generally consider the island of Sicily, just off the coast of the Italian Peninsula, to be European, it is in fact a part of the African plate. The African plate itself contains large pieces of the Mediterranean Sea as well as the Atlantic Ocean, and Sicily forms the boundary of Africa’s Mediterranean sea plate.
Many parts of the world were once a part of the African plate but have since split off. The Arabian Peninsula split from Africa, creating the Red Sea in the process. Spain also was once a part of the African plate but joined the European plate after splitting from Africa. At one time, Madagascar was a separate plate, although plate dynamics have shifted and Madagascar has since attached itself to the African plate.
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