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WHAT’S UP WITH PLATE TECTONICS? Earth’s lithosphere is broken into uneven pieces called plates. Earth has 6 major tectonic plates to be exact: the Eurasian, the African, the Indo-Australian, the Pacific, the North American, and the South American plates. These plates meet at boundaries. Along each boundary plates move in one of three ways. At the divergent boundary, plates move apart. When they move apart magma pushes up and hardens creating new crust. This process is called sea-floor spreading. The crust creates volcanic mountains on the ocean floor and rift valleys on the continents. Earthquakes do occur along with the creation of these landforms (features). At the convergent boundary, plates come together and collide. What happens depends upon the types of crust that meet! There are three types of convergent boundaries. Along with the many landforms (features) that are created, earthquakes occur! 1. When 2 oceanic plates collide, the denser of the two plates will sink. The more dense plate is always the older of the two oceanic plates. This sinking along with melting is called subduction. Landforms (features) created are volcanic island arcs & trenches. 2. When a continental plate and an oceanic plate collide, the more dense oceanic plate slides under the less dense continental plate. This action forms a trench where the sinking crust is melted and recycled. The area where this takes place is called a subduction zone. Landforms (features) created at these zones include trenches and volcanic mountains. 3. When 2 continental plates collide, both plates buckle and push up into mountain ranges. These mountains are classified as folded mountains due to the way they were created. At the transform boundary, two plates slide past each other. Crust is neither created nor destroyed. Therefore, no landforms (features) are created! Earthquakes occur frequently along these boundaries.