New Tectonic Microplate “Malpelo Plate” Off the Coast of Ecuador (Important) (Download PDF)


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Rice University’s researcher have found new tectonic mircoplate off Ecuador’s coast in the eastern Pacific Ocean and named it Malpelo plate, after a Colombian island and an oceanic ridge it contains.

Image of Malpelo Plate

Image of Malpelo Plate

Image of Malpelo Plate

Key Facts

  • Malpelo microplate is located west of the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador wedged in-between the Nazca, Cocos, and Caribbean minor plates and linked to a nearby oceanic ridge along the Ring of Fire.

  • Most of the region east of the known Panama transform fault thought to be part of the Nazca plate was recently found to be a different tectonic plate moving independently in a different direction – the Malpelo plate.

  • Malpelo plate was identified with the help of a diffuse plate boundary running from the Panama Transform Fault eastward where it intersects deep oceanic trench just offshore of Ecuador and Colombia.

  • It is the 57th tectonic microplate discovered so far and the first in nearly a decade.

Tectonic Plates

Image of Tectonic Plates

Image of Tectonic Plates

Image of Tectonic Plates

  • Plate tectonics believes that Earth’s outer shell is divided into several plates that glide over the mantle, the rocky inner layer above the core.

  • Plates form the strong outer layer- lithosphere.

  • Plate tectonics was developed from the 1950s through the 1970s- a modern version of continental drift, theory proposed by Alfred Wegener in 1912.

  • Plate tectonics are driven by convection in the mantle.

  • A tectonic plate is part-crust, part-mantle pushed around by the convicting currents of superheated mantle.

Types of Plates

  • 8 major tectonic plates with an area greater than 20 million km2

  • 10 minor tectonic plates with area between 1 and 20 million km2

  • Microplates are tectonic plates with an area less than 1 million km2

What Are Microplates, Terranes, and Zones?

  • Microplates are tiny tectonic plates

  • Terranes are fragments of crustal material formed on one tectonic plate and accreted to crust lying on another plate

  • Zones are bands of similar rocks on a plate formed by terrane accretion or native rock formation.

- Published/Last Modified on: September 21, 2017


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