Continental and oceanic are the two types of tectonic plates. Continental plates tend to be larger than oceanic and bear the majority of a continent's mass. Continental plates tend to be much thicker on average, but less dense.
Tectonic plates are enormous sections of rock that make up the Earth's crust. They are propelled over the surface of the planet during millions of years by currents of magma far below. Oceanic plates are thinner and denser than continental plates as the enormous weight of the oceans compress them into smaller volumes. Continental plates contain large masses of rock that project above ocean level and suffer less from this compression effect.Learn More
Earth's tectonic plates move due to the movement of magma in the mantle underneath the crust. Extreme temperatures inside the planet's core cause a convection cycle in which hot magma rises to the surface and eventually sinks back toward the core as it cools.Full Answer >
There are seven major tectonic plates on the planet that are further subdivided into dozens of smaller plates. Geologists do not always agree on how to subdivide the minor plates. Each plate is in motion relative to the other plates.Full Answer >
Tectonic plates shift as a result of the intense heat at the Earth's core, which causes molten rock in the mantle layer to rise, while cooler rock near the surface sinks back down. This is a process referred to as thermal convection.Full Answer >
The three primary causes for tectonic plate movement are the convection of material in the mantle, gravity and the rotation of the planet. These forces cause each of the seven major plates and numerous other microplates to move independently of the others at a rate of a few centimeters per year.Full Answer >