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Scientists are zeroing in on when the Earth’s plates started to move

At some point in Earth's history, the planet's crust began to move, eventually giving rise to continents, mountains and volcanoes and supplying the surface with life-sustaining nutrients and elements. New research points to that movement starting in at least some places more than 3 billion years ago.

Why it matters: Earth is the only planet known so far to show plate tectonics. One of the biggest questions in geoscience is when and how tectonic activity began and changed, and answers could also guide the search for signs of similar processes — and potentially life — on far-away worlds.

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