The Himalayan range’s greatest peak, Mount Everest, is at 8,848 metres, but there were more ranges that spread throughout the continent. These mountain ranges, which are longer than the Himalayas, aided in the evolution of the globe. The creation of these supermountains has been studied throughout Earth’s history.
They originated twice in Earth’s history, the first between 2,000 and 1,800 million years ago and the second between 650 and 500 million years ago, stretching up to 8,000 kilometers across and roughly four times the length of the present-day Himalayan ranges (2,300 kilometers). Researchers believe there are connections between these two supermountain occurrences and Earth’s two most crucial evolutionary phases.
Researchers used traces of zircon with low lutetium content—a mix of mineral and rare earth elements exclusively found in the roots of high mountains where they form under great pressure—to identify these formations in a study published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.
A supermountain story
There is no evidence of any additional supermountains growing between these two periods, which makes them all the more remarkable. Ziyi Zhu, a Ph.D. student at the Australian National University and the paper’s primary author, stated, “These two supermountains are unique in today’s world. It’s not simply their size; consider the length of the Himalayas, which is 2,400 kilometres, multiplied three or four times.”
Nuna Supermountain is the name given to the first supermountains, which are thought to have appeared about the same time as eukaryotes, the organisms that subsequently gave rise to plants and animals. The Transgondwanan Supermountain, which originated between 650 and 500 million years ago, corresponds to the arrival of the first giant animals and the Cambrian explosion 45 million years later, when most animal groups appeared in the fossil record.
Contribution to the earth’s evolution
According to the researchers, when mountains eroded, they gave vital nutrients to the oceans such as phosphorus and iron, supercharging biological cycles and propelling evolution to greater complexity. The supermountains may have also increased the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere, which is required for sophisticated life to breathe.
“There was almost no oxygen in the early Earth’s atmosphere. The quantities of oxygen in the atmosphere are assumed to have risen in stages, two of which correlate with the supermountains “Zhu remarked. Professor Jochen Brocks, a co-author, adding “What’s amazing is how well-preserved the entire history of mountain construction is. It depicts two enormous spikes, one associated with the advent of animals and the other with the emergence of complicated large cells.”
The absence of these supermountains is thought to have caused a reduction in the rate of evolution on the planet between 1,800 and 800 million years. The Boring Billion is the name given to this time period. “The absence of supermountains at that epoch, restricting the flow of nutrients to the oceans, is attributed to the stalling of evolution,” they said.
The unexpected discovery may reveal important details about the evolution of our planet and life as we know it.