Recovering mantle memories from river profiles

The continent of Africa has a distinctive physical geography—an "egg carton" pattern of basins and swells—that researchers attribute to plumes of mantle rocks rising beneath a tectonic plate. Marine fossils on mountaintops in African and Arabian deserts suggest that until about 30 million years ago, those portions of the landscape were at or below sea level. But the spatial and temporal evolution of this uplift process is still not well defined. In a new study, O'Malley et al. use the profiles of the continent's major rivers to trace the evolution of the landscape in space and time.