The ongoing movement of India towards Central Asia could be driven by a downward pull from the Indian continental plate, according to a study published online this week in Nature Geoscience. This work provides a different interpretation of the forces that governed the collision of India and Asia between about 55 and 30 million years ago and subsequent convergence.
Fabio Capitanio and colleagues used a numerical model to explore the balance of forces during the collision of the Asian and Indian continental plates, probably the most spectacular convergence of continental plates on Earth. They find that once its upper crust was scraped off in the collision zone, the Indian plate was denser than the underlying mantle, and would have continued to drag India towards Asia. The authors therefore suggest that the collision of the two continental plates that generated the Himalayas did not stop plate movement because the bulk of the Indian plate was sufficiently dense to sink into the underlying mantle.
In an accompanying News and Views article, Dietmar Muller says “Capitanio and colleagues have provided a fresh view to the long-standing problem of understanding the sequence of events before and after the collision of India and Asia”.