Diamonds, long prized for their beauty and hardness, are now unveiling secrets about processes deep within our planet. Recent research has shown that diamonds originating hundreds of miles underground carry unique chemical signatures from their birthplaces. By studying these diamonds, scientists are tracing the movements of continents over billions of years to recreate the configurations of ancient supercontinents.
Diamonds Erupt from Deep Within the Mantle
Most natural diamonds crystallize under intense heat and pressure about 90-125 miles underground. Powerful upwellings bring the diamonds even deeper, eventually erupting them rapidly from depths of over 155 miles to the surface along narrow underground corridors at speeds up to 12 miles per hour.
These exceptional diamonds rocket to the surface from the transition zone between the upper and lower mantle. This region lies between 255-410 miles deep, where increased pressure causes minerals to transition into higher-density crystal structures. The diamonds originating from this layer contain traces of these high-pressure minerals, allowing researchers to identify the diamonds’ birthplaces.
Tracking Chemical Signatures Throughout History
The mineral inclusions trapped inside diamonds provide a unique chemical signature of their mantle source regions. By tracking these markers over time, scientists can deduce past configurations of continents and supercontinents.
- “There is information basically recorded in the chemistry of these inclusions that’s giving us clues to what was happening deep in Earth billions of years ago,” says Steven Shirey, geochemist at the Carnegie Institution for Science.
As the cycling of material from the surface to Earth’s interior overturns through plate tectonics, the mineral markers retain signatures from ancient geologic eras. Like genetic records, the stratigraphic markers inside diamonds reveal ancestral connections from the protracted history of supercontinent cycles.
“We can use the geochemistry of these deep diamonds, as we would use genes in a population, to figure out the geologic ancestry and relations of ancient continents all the way back to almost 3 billion years ago,” Shirey explained.
Reconstructing the Supercontinent Lifecycles
Researchers can now extend geologic history far beyond the reach of rock outcrops at Earth’s surface. Most rocks have been destroyed by erosion and subduction over multi-billion-year timeframes, but diamonds preserve marker evidence across eons inside Earth’s depths. By coordinating markers from diamonds across vast regions, scientists are recreating supercontinent patterns from over 2.5 billion years ago.
“This work on diamonds gives us almost a tracer dye of mantle circulation,” says Steven Shirey. “It’s showing us there are cycles in Earth’s history that are way older than what we could see before.”
Collisions of tectonic plates pushed ancient continents together into supercontinent Pangea and previous giant-landmasses. Diamonds erupting millions of years later still carry the unique chemical signature from those primordial events, allowing researchers to map the shifting history of continents throughout time.
Next Phase of “Diamond Mining”
With improving technology, researchers plan expanded analysis of mineral inclusions inside diamonds to further trace mantle circulation cycles. The new research diamonds originate from underground depths never before reached by modern humans. Unlocking more geographic origins and ages will reveal deeper insights on the prolonged cycles of supercontinents.
“It’s only in the last decade that we could analyze such small spots of inclusions trapped in diamonds,” says Shirey. “We couldn’t do this even 15 years ago.”
Just as diamonds preserve billion-year histories within their rigid structure, they now reveal clues to reconstruct the ancient story of shifting continents. By tracking diamond data across mining regions worldwide, geoscientists keep unveiling more secrets from our dynamic planet’s deep past. The diamond inclusions integrate a enduring message – within the restless Earth, the cycles of supercontinents constantly turnover in enduring progression across unfathomable ages.
Study explores Earth’s cycles of continental shifts by mining diamonds. Carnegie Science. https://carnegiescience.edu/news/study-explores-earth%E2%80%99s-cycles-continental-shifts-mining-diamonds
Listen to diamonds erupting from deep within Earth in striking animation. LiveScience. https://www.livescience.com/planet-earth/geology/listen-to-diamonds-erupting-from-deep-within-earth-in-striking-animation
Fountains of diamonds that erupt from Earth’s center are revealing the lost history of supercontinents. LiveScience. https://www.livescience.com/planet-earth/geology/fountains-of-diamonds-that-erupt-from-earths-center-are-revealing-the-lost-history-of-supercontinents
To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.