The lithosphere is the outermost layer that surrounds our planet and is made up of the earth’s crust and part of the mantle . The term lithosphere comes from the Greek, lithos which means stone and sphere. It is a solid and hard layer, and it is the most superficial layer that exists. Its external part forms the islands and the continents and for this reason we are in direct contact with it. It is made up of solid materials and surrounds the continental crust , the oceanic crust and the superficial part of the earth’s mantle. It is divided into tectonic plates , these plates are constantly moving over the asthenosphere.

What is the Lithosphere?

The lithosphere is the outer layer that surrounds the earth and is basically formed by the earth’s crust and a part of the mantle that covers the earth and is the most superficial layer that exists. It is divided into different tectonic plates along its layer which are in constant motion.

  • Characteristics of the lithosphere
  • Lithosphere composition
  • Layers
  • Formation of the lithosphere
  • Movement
  • Importance

Characteristics of the lithosphere

The elements that make up the lithosphere are of rigid consistency and its components can be inorganic and produced by the decomposition and weathering of the rocks that are on the surface. It consists mainly of sedimentary and igneous rocks . Its upper part is composed of formations of magmatic origin and can also present rocks that are already sedimented. On the continents, it is made up mainly of granite rocks that form a solid layer. It is also made up of minerals, organic substances and living organisms, water and gases. When the organisms are decomposed, they then become an important part of the humuson the floor. The lithosphere is divided into plates , these are limited to the zones of seismic , volcanic and tectonic activity depending on the limits that the plates have.

Lithosphere composition

The lithosphere is made up of solid materials and encompasses the continental crust. It is also made up of oceanic crust and slowly moving tectonic plates that are as large as a continent. It is made up of elements such as oxygen, sulfur, aluminum, iron, calcium, and magnesium.


The earth is made up of three different layers of which only two belong to the lithosphere, the crust and part of the earth’s mantle :

  • Crust : It is made up of basalt rocks and granite . It has the geographical features that are perceptible to us, such as mountain ranges, mountains, plains, etc. It is also present in the division of the continental masses .
  • Mantle : The mantle is made up of several elements such as magnesium , iron , calcium and aluminum silicates . The mantle is divided into two different layers, upper and lower, which are responsible for the movement of the tectonic plates .
  • Core : The core is divided into an outer core that is made of cast metallic iron. The inner core that is surrounded by the outer core and that is solid in nature.

Formation of the lithosphere

It was formed when the outer layer of incandescent material cooled. Throughout the history of the geology of our planet it has been transforming and undergoing different changes caused by various processes. Since the beginning of the 20th century, scientists have been studying the configuration of the lithosphere to try to explain its genesis, the best known being the Continental Drift Theory . Then, the Theory of the Expansion of the Seabed and finally, the Theory of Plate Tectonics . All these different theories complement each other, always reaching the same conclusion.


Tectonic plates move in the lithosphere . These move from each other at every moment. These plate movements cause intense deformations in the earth’s crust , which has given rise to large mountain ranges. Tectonic plates are made up of two types of lithosphere, the continental crust and the oceanic crust . Plate tectonic theory proposes that the lithosphere is divided into a series of fragments called plates that move horizontally with respect to each other. The origin of this movement is by convection and subduction .


The lithosphere is one of the most important layers of the earth, this because it is here where all geological processes take place and it is the place where life manifests itself. It is the outer layer of the earth and is essential for the proper functioning of ecosystems , necessary for life. It provides us with a solid base with the soil, it gives us the right place for the growth of plants and animals that inhabit the earth, and, in addition, it contains many minerals and elements important for human development and the necessary nutrients for beings alive feed and develop properly. We also find in it, metallic minerals such as copper and iron, important for human life.

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