GARY HINCKS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY GARY HINCKS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Earth's tectonic plates, artwork. The Earth's surface is divided up into nine major plates. These are rocky structures that float and move on the more fluid layer beneath them. The boundaries between plates are geologically active areas, and are the sites of the majority of the world's volcanoes (red dots). The pink arrows show the direction of movement of the plates. Where plates collide (pale pink lines), mountains can be formed, as is the case in the Himalayas, where the Indian plate collided with the Eurasian plate. Where plates separate, rifts can be formed (such as the Red Sea). In subduction zones (purple arrowed lines), where one plate slides beneath another, earthquakes and volcanoes are common.
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