Biogeographical and geological evidence for a smaller, completely-enclosed Pacific Basin in the Late Cretaceous
To use biogeographical, palaeomagnetic, palaeosedimentary, and plate circuit data from Late Cretaceous regions in and around the Pacific to test the plate tectonic hypothesis of a pre-Pacific superocean. Location
East Asia, Australia, Antarctica, the western Americas, and the Pacific. Methods
Literature surveys of the distributions of Cretaceous, circum-Pacific taxa were compared with palaeomagnetic and palaeosedimentary data. Uncontroversial plate motions based on seafloor spreading data were also used to test the results of the biogeographical and palaeomagnetic analyses. Results
The distributions of Cretaceous terrestrial taxa, mostly dinosaurs, imply direct, continental connections between Australia and East Asia, East Asia and North America, North America and South America, South America and Antarctica, and Antarctica and Australia. Palaeomagnetic, palaeosedimentary, and basic plate circuit analyses require little to no latitudinal motion of the Pacific plate with respect to the surrounding continents. Specifically, the data implies that western North America, East Asia, and the Pacific plate all increased in latitude by roughly the same amount (c. 11 ± 5°) since the Campanian – and that the Pacific Ocean Basin has increased in length north-to-south. Main conclusions
Each of the analyses provides independent corroboration for the same conclusion: the Late Cretaceous Pacific plate was completely enclosed by the surrounding continents and has not experienced significant latitudinal motion with respect to North America, East Asia, or the Bering land bridge. This contrasts significantly with the plate tectonic history of the Pacific, implying instead that the Pacific plate formed in situ, pushing the continents apart as the plate and basin expanded. These results also substantiate recent biogeographical analyses that have concluded that a narrower Pacific Ocean Basin in the Mesozoic and early Tertiary provides the most reasonable explanation for the great number of trans-Pacific disjunctions of poor dispersing taxa.