Africa is forming two continents and will create a new ocean, scientists claim

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Slowly and gradually, the world’s second-largest continent is splitting into two, as two significant sections of Africa are peeling apart and will eventually form a new ocean, researchers claim.

The process could take millions of years

The East African Rift System (EARS) is being pulled apart by gigantic geological forces. This process of separating the continent is currently happening at an extremely slow pace. Still, recent analyses confirmed the 2004 study claiming that EARS is slowly dividing the continent into two distinct entities: the smaller Somalian and larger Nubian plates.

National Geographic wrote that the smaller continent, or Somali plate, will likely be the size of Madagascar or New Zealand. The gap between the two plates will continue widening thanks to the seafloor spreading process, allowing the new oceanic crust to form underwater mountain ranges.

This phenomenon was last spotted when South America and Africa separated

Some 138 million years ago, Africa and South America separated in a similar matter. The coastlines, though now far away, still fit like puzzle pieces. Researchers believe that similar will happen to Africa in five to ten million years.

Ken Macdonald, a marine geophysicist and a professor emeritus at the University of California, told Mashable, “The Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea will flood in over the Afar region and into the East African Rift Valley and become a new ocean, and that part of East Africa will become its own separate small continent.”

The process will allow countries like Ethiopia or Rwanda to have their own coastlines, which will affect their production and trade.

Creating new ocean and potential new discoveries

IFLScience pointed out that the Somalian plate and the Nubian plate will likely form a new ocean. However, that will happen gradually, and many wonder if humans will even be present on the planet to witness the birth of new continents.

Earth’s surface is in a constant state of flux, and the EARS has been in this current process for approximately 25 million years. many important paleoanthropological discoveries have been uncovered in the East African Rift, dubbed the “cradle of humanity.” It includes the so-called Lucy, a 3.2 million-year-old hominin skeleton found in Ethiopia, and the “Turkana Boy,” a 1.5-million-year-old hominin skeleton found in Kenya.

The barely there changes, with time, provide some of the most exciting paleoanthropological findings. While this appears to be a giant change, the separation of part of East Africa is nothing more than another page in an enormous world of geological changes.