Previous studies have shown that volcanic islands form when hot plumes of rock rise out of the Earth’s mantle. More and more islands can form as tectonic plates move, leading to chains known as archipelagos. However, our planet’s relentless force has been altering some islands, eventually causing them to drown in the sea. This is one of the reasons why some of the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific have drowned.
|Credits: Cid Jacobo via Wikimedia Commons|
However, there are also some islands such as the Canary Islands in the Atlantic, which are over 20 million years, that still exist. This has led scientists to question if some islands can live longer than others. A recent study conducted by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology found out that there’s a strong correlation between the time an island spends on top of a swell and time spent above sea level. This shows that a volcanic island's lifespan depends on its tectonic plate's speed and the size of the plume. Meanwhile, there’s a higher chance that an island would have a short lifespan if it forms on a fast-moving tectonic plate.
|Credits: Robert Anton Pimintel Aparente via Wikimedia Commons|
According to Live Science, a science news website that features groundbreaking developments in science, space, technology, health, the environment, our culture and history, the researchers investigated 15 major volcanic island chains across the world for the study. They looked at the direction and speed the islands' tectonic plates were moving and measured the length of each swell, which is formed when the mantle plume raises the seafloor around the island. The team also discovered that an island’s lifespan plays a huge role in how its plants and animals evolve.
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"If an island spends a long time above sea level, that provides a long time for speciation to play out. But if you have an island chain where you have islands that drown at a faster rate, then it will affect the ability of fauna to radiate to neighboring islands,” study lead researcher Kimberly Huppert, a former MIT graduate student of geology, said.