SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Tectonic plates. Artwork of the boundaries (red) between the main tectonic plates on a Mercator projection of the Earth. Earthquakes and volcanoes are most likely to occur along these boundaries. The Earth's solid crust is broken up into about a dozen semi-rigid plates of rock which float on the molten interior (the mantle). These plates are slowly moving in different directions, and these movements are largely responsible for the shape of the continents. Volcanoes occur when molten rock from the Earth's interior seeps up through the cracks between the plates. Earthquakes occur as the plates sporadically overcome resistance to their movement along the boundaries.
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