Difference between Oceanic and Continental Crust

October 27, 2015 by Editorial Team

The planet Earth is covered by a crust, which is divided by geologists into the oceanic crust and the continental crust. Let’s take a look at the differences between the two types of crust.


Earth’s crust types. Gray is continental crust, colored is oceanic crust.

The oceanic crust is the part of the Earth’s crust that creates the seafloor. It is believed to be made of the products of volcanic lava. Geologists suggest that the age of the oceanic crust is around 100 million years, which is still younger than the age of the continental crust.

The continental crust makes the form of Earth’s continents and those areas of seabed that are close to the continents. This type of crust makes up around forty percent of the Earth’s surface and is predominantly made of granite. The evolution of land life from marine life was made possible by this type of crust.

Comparison chart

Oceanic CrustContinental Crust
DenserLess dense
Can recycleCannot recycle


Let’s compare them by density, age and by the ability to recycle.

  • The density of the oceanic crust is higher than that of the continental crust. Different levels of density between the two types of crusts allows for continents to “stay as they are.”
  • The continental crust is by far the older of the two types of crust. Due to the granite it is made up of, it cannot be as easily disrupted as the oceanic crust.
  • The peculiar property of the oceanic crust is that it can actually “recycle.” Basalt and other minerals that make up the oceanic crust get melted in the mantle of the planet, once the oceanic crust reaches it. Continental crust is never recycled, hence its longevity.