The third land mass named Armorica, which is now modern-day France was involved in the collision between Avalonia and Laurentia, creating what is now known as England, Wales, and Scotland.
How The British Mainland Was Formed
For centuries, geologists believed that only two ancient continental land masses — Avalonia and Laurentia — collided and merge to create Great Britain. This took place over 400 million years ago.
However, a new study published in the journal Nature Communications has evidence claiming that Armorica also collided with Avalonia and Laurentia.
The discovery was made through the intensive study of the mineral properties found at 22 sites in Devon and Cornwall in England. These areas were exposed following underground volcanic eruptions that took place around 300 million years ago, leaving magma to the surface of the Earth.
Researchers took rock samples and subjected them to chemical and isotopic analysis to understand the history of the land. Then, they compared their study with previous research from the United Kingdom and mainland Europe.
"It has always been presumed that the border of Avalonia and Armorica was beneath what would seem to be the natural boundary of the English Channel," stated Arjan Dijkstra who led the study.
"But our findings suggest that although there is no physical line on the surface, there is a clear geological boundary which separates Cornwall and south Devon from the rest of the UK."
Walking From France To England
The study found a clear divide across Devin and Cornwall. While north of both counties shares their geological roots with the rest of England and Wales, the areas in the south have more similarities with France and other parts of mainland Europe.
Dijkstra and the team's discovery changes the way geologists see the formation of the United Kingdom millions of years ago. About 10,000 years ago, what is now known as England and France were connected by a land bridge that allowed humans and animals to migrate to and from the areas. Now, the world knows that England and France were even closer millions of years ago.
The collision also explains why there is an abundance of tin and tungsten in the far southwest of England. The mineral can be found in other areas of mainland Europe, but not the rest of the United Kingdom.