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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2008 Oct 27;363(1508):3293-308. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2008.0119.

The age and origin of the Pacific islands: a geological overview.

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  • 1Institute of Natural Resources, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.


The Pacific Ocean evolved from the Panthalassic Ocean that was first formed ca 750 Ma with the rifting apart of Rodinia. By 160 Ma, the first ocean floor ascribed to the current Pacific plate was produced to the west of a spreading centre in the central Pacific, ultimately growing to become the largest oceanic plate on the Earth. The current Nazca, Cocos and Juan de Fuca (Gorda) plates were initially one plate, produced to the east of the original spreading centre before becoming split into three. The islands of the Pacific have originated as: linear chains of volcanic islands on the above plates either by mantle plume or propagating fracture origin, atolls, uplifted coralline reefs, fragments of continental crust, obducted portions of adjoining lithospheric plates and islands resulting from subduction along convergent plate margins. Out of the 11 linear volcanic chains identified, each is briefly described and its history summarized. The geology of 10 exemplar archipelagos (Japan, Izu-Bonin, Palau, Solomons, Fiji, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Society, Galápagos and Hawaii) is then discussed in detail.

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