Researchers from US-based Rice University have found new tectonic mircoplate off Ecuador’s coast in the eastern Pacific Ocean. It has been named Malpelo plate, after a Colombian island and an oceanic ridge it contains.
It is overall 57th tectonic mircoplate to be discovered so far and the first in nearly a decade. Microplates are tectonic plates with an area less than 1 million km2.
Malpelo microplate is located west of the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. It is wedged in-between the Nazca, Cocos, and Caribbean minor plates. It is linked to a nearby oceanic ridge along the Ring of Fire.
Earlier it was that assumed most of the region east of the known Panama transform fault was part of the Nazca plate. But recent study showed that it is different tectonic plate moving independently in a different direction.
Evidence for the Malpelo plate came with the researchers’ identification of a diffuse plate boundary that runs from the Panama Transform Fault eastward to where it intersects a deep oceanic trench just offshore of Ecuador and Colombia.
A tectonic plate is essentially a part-crust, part-mantle that is pushed around by the convecting currents of superheated rock (magma) beneath them. There are total eight major tectonic plates (with an area greater than 20 million km2), ten minor tectonic plates (area between 1 and 20 million km2). Interactions at the edges of moving plates account for most earthquakes and volcanic eruptions on the Earth.