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Suppose an world with roughly 500 major tectonic plates.

Question

What is the plausibility of such a world to sustain (large) continents? Why?

Further clarifications:

  • speed of plates: fast or truncated to , not too slow here
  • number of major plates: 500, and assume no minor plates for simplicity
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    $\begingroup$ Define "large". $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Aug 6 at 5:27
  • $\begingroup$ For how long, nothing on Earth is stable over the long-term so how long do you want your large continents to last? $\endgroup$ – Ash Aug 6 at 13:23
  • $\begingroup$ LOL! It's turtles all the way down! $\endgroup$ – puppetsock Aug 6 at 19:32
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Earth has seven major plates.

Earth tectonic plates

You are scaling up that number by a factor 100. That would mean that, on average, the surface for each plate would scale down by the same factor, reaching the surface extension of what we call minor plates on Earth (something like the Cocos plate or the Caribbean plate).

As a consequence, the surface of each continent would roughly be equally scaled down.

There might be cases where two convergent edges happens between two continental areas and not between an oceanic and a continental area (like the edge between the Indian plate and the Eurasian plate, but those would not account for the majority.

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Plates and subplates I see that L. Dutch has already given a pretty great answer to this question. I'd like to offer an alternative explanation that is not supported by real life. In real life there are plenty of active fault lines (see: Pacific Ring of Fire) located where two plates collide. In your world, I suggest the same, but with each plate having many different subplates of their own. The faults between these subplates will be much more minor (i.e less likely to turn into volcanoes, form mountain ranges, or cause large earthquakes), but as a consequence the nature of the ground underneath your feet would be less predictable. Consequences of such a world could include:

  • Weaker but less intense seismic activity (lots of 0.0-3.0 quakes, basically all the time, but nothing major).
  • Volcanoes near major fault lines, but few near the weak ones.
  • The seismic reactions of multiple subplates will have a compounding/domino effect on their respective plate, causing much larger tectonic shifts than normal, making a 10.0 earthquake a possibility, and gaping chasms as fault lines.

I hope this helps!

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We have 7 major plates. To fit 500, they may be too small to be stable without other large plates to support them.

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