The heat from inside the Earth causes the material of the mantle to permanently rise up along the ocean ridges, resulting in the formation of a dense basaltic crust which slowly rolls away from the ridge, much like a rug being rolled up. The continents, which are made of an insubmersible lightweight crust, passively drift with the movement of the lithospheric plates on which they sit.
The animation illustrates the movements of the lithospheric plates from 250 million years in the past through to the present, as well as projections of continental movements 30 million years into the future.
Click on [next-step] button to see the position of lithospheric plates today.
Rollover the continents to see the names of the lithospheric plates.
Click on [play] or [pause] to play/stop the animation.