According to researchers who studied ancient rocks in Australia, Earth's continents came into existence as a result of giant meteor impacts.
Co-author Tim Johnson said, for decades, it was believed that the continents on Earth were formed by heavy impacts, but there was little evidence to support that hypothesis.
"Our research provides the first solid evidence that the processes that eventually formed continents began with giant meteorite impacts," says Johnson, a researcher at Curtin University.
Subsequent meteorite impacts were responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs from Earth. This research was published in the journal Nature.
Researchers found zircon crystals in Western Australia's Pilbara Craton, the region Earth's best-preserved remnant of ancient crust, and the crystals showed signs of a geologic 'top down' formation after an impact.
Johnson hopes to apply this model to other parts of the planet, suggesting in the statement that understanding the origin and formation of continents could be key to a more eco-friendly future.
"The continents host important metals such as lithium, tin and nickel, which are essential commodities for the emerging green technologies needed to meet our obligation to mitigate climate change," he said.