African Continent (02:08)
Humans have lived in Africa for 200,000 years. Scientists are discovering how geological forces have shaped its wildlife and society—an ongoing transformation process.
Victoria Falls (03:51)
Tourists bathe on the edge of the world's largest waterfall. Dr. Arto Luttinen explains that fine grained basalt rock indicates the area was formed by a volcanic eruption.
Breaking Pangaea (01:55)
180 million years ago, a volcanic eruption transformed the super continent and created Africa. Plumes under the earth's mantle helped break apart the land mass.
Africa's Geographical Isolation (02:23)
Learn how Pangaea was gradually broken into continents. Animals were forced to adapt to new environments, including whales.
Egyptian Nummulites (02:52)
Learn how 100 million year old fossils in the Pyramids of Giza indicate a shallow marine habitat. A tropical sea covered much of North Africa.
Wadi Al-Hitan (02:21)
As Pangaea broke apart, a volcano chain caused a 300 meter sea level rise—flooding the new African continent. A Saharan valley provides geological clues about whale evolution.
Whale Evolution (03:42)
14 million year old fossilized Basilosaurus skeletons in the Sahara prove that whales evolved from land mammals to access abundant life in shallow seas. Sea levels dropped 40 million years ago, but the species represents Africa's birth.
Africa's Diamond Region (01:54)
Sierra Leone diamonds reveal clues about Africa's origins before Pangaea, and why continents move. In the '90s, a civil war was fought over the natural resource.
Sierra Leone Diamond Mine (03:02)
Learn how diamonds are extracted from a river bed. Geologist Kassim Mansaray explains how the carbon atoms can only be bonded under extreme pressure found 150-200 km below earth's surface—with specific cool conditions.
West African Craton (02:11)
Diamonds form in specific conditions beneath cratons, solid rock formations extending 200 km underground. Sierra Leone diamonds are 3 billion years old, showing the country sits on one of the oldest land masses.
Plate Tectonic Origins (05:16)
Africa contains five cratons, earth’s original land masses. Geologist Stephen Richardson explains how mineral flaws in diamonds show that subduction began 3 billion years ago, moving cratons into a super continent.
Super Continent Formation (01:21)
Subduction moved Africa's craton islands together 3 billion years ago to form earth's first continents. 550 million years ago, they came together to form Gondwana and have since formed and split Pangaea.
Serengeti Plain (03:35)
After millions of years of geological stability, Africa is threatened by an underground geological force. Learn how wildebeest herds migrate to nutrient rich grasslands to give birth.
Ol Doinyo Lengai (02:17)
In 2007, a volcano near the Serengeti erupted, depositing fertile ash on surrounding plains that provided nutrient rich grass for wildebeest herds.
African Super Plume (04:45)
Professor Iain Stewart investigates Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano's unusual composition. Black lava emerges at 600 degrees and is rich in carbon dioxide. Learn why its location on the Tanzania Craton indicates a 45 million year old super plume.
Great Rift Valley (01:28)
Learn how the super plume that has created Africa's largest land feature will break up the continent.
African Continental Future (03:02)
Ethiopia's Danakil Depression is being broken apart by a super plume beneath the mantle. Stewart shows possible routes the Red Sea will take to split Africa in two over the next 20 million years.
Credits: Africa: Rise of the Continents (00:39)
Credits: Africa: Rise of the Continents
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