EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

 A geodynamic framework for 2 billion years of tectonic evolution: From cratonic amalgamation to the age of supercontinent cycle

Zheng-Xiang Li1, Yebo Liu1, and Richard Ernst2
Zheng-Xiang Li et al.
  • 1Earth Dynamics Research Group, School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Curtin University, Perth, Australia (
  • 2Department of Earth Sciences, Carleton University, Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6, Canada

An advanced understanding of how tectonic plates have moved since deep time is essential for understanding how Earth’s geodynamic system has evolved and interacted with the plate tectonic system, i.e., the longstanding question of what “drives” plate tectonics. In this work, we take advantage of the rapidly improving database and knowledge about the Precambrian world, and the conceptual breakthroughs both regarding the presence of a supercontinent cycle and possible dynamic coupling between the supercontinent cycle and mantle dynamics, to establish a full-plate global reconstruction back to 2000 Ma. We utilise a variety of global geotectonic databases to constrain our reconstruction, and use palaeomagnetically recorded true polar wander events and global plume records to help evaluate competing geodynamic models regarding the origin and evolution of first-order mantle structures, and provide new constraints on the absolute longitude of continents and supercontinents. After revising the configuration and life span of both supercontinents Nuna (1600–1300 Ma) and Rodinia (900–720 Ma), we present here a 2000–540 Ma animation featuring the rapid assembly of large cratons and supercratons (or megacontinents) between 2000 Ma and 1800 Ma after billion years of dominance by many small cratons, that kick started the ensuing Nuna and Rodinia supercontinent cycles and the emergence of hemisphere-scale (long-wavelength) degree-1/degree-2 mantle structures. We further use the geodynamically-defined type-1 and type-2 inertia interchange true polar wander (IITPW) events, which likely occurred during Nuna (type-1) and Rodinia (type-2) times as shown by the palaeomagnetic record, to argue that Nuna assembled at about the same longitude as the latest supercontinent Pangea (320–170 Ma), whereas Rodinia formed through introversion assembly over the legacy Nuna subduction girdle either ca. 90° to the west (our preferred model) or to the east before the migrated subduction girdle surround it generated its own degree-2 mantle structure. Our interpretation is broadly consistent with the global LIP record. Using TPW and LIP observations and geodynamic model predictions, we further argue that the Phanerozoic supercontinent Pangaea assembled through extroversion on a legacy Rodinia subduction girdle with a geographic centre at around 0°E longitude before the formation of its own degree-2 mantle structure, the legacy of which is still present in present-day mantle.   

How to cite: Li, Z.-X., Liu, Y., and Ernst, R.:  A geodynamic framework for 2 billion years of tectonic evolution: From cratonic amalgamation to the age of supercontinent cycle, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-10404,, 2023.

Supplementary materials

Supplementary material file