Planktonic foraminifera, such as these collected in the Gulf of Mexico, form the base of many marine and aquatic food chains. Upon death, their skeletons settle on the seafloor to form sedimentary rock such as limestone and chalk. Pressed together in sufficient quantities, such sedimentary rock could have a lubricating effect on the movement of continental plates. A new study by The University of Texas at Austin shows that sediment could play a key role in determining the speed of continental drift. In addition to challenging existing ideas about how plates interact, the findings describe potential feedback mechanisms between tectonic movement, climate and life on earth, said the university in a statement.