The Earth’s mantle is a solid layer that undergoes slow, continuous convective motion. But how do these rocks deform, thus making such motion possible, given that minerals such as olivine (the main constituent of the upper mantle) do not exhibit enough defects in their crystal lattice to explain the deformations observed in nature? Scientists have provided an unexpected answer to this question. It involves little known and hitherto neglected crystal defects, known as ‘disclinations’, which are located at the boundaries between the mineral grains that make up rocks.
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