The continental shelf is the extendit perimeter o each continent an associatit coastal plain. The shelf surroondin an island is kent as an insular shelf. Much o the shelf wis exponed durin glacial periods, but it is nou submerged unner relatively shallae seas (kent as shelf seas) an gulfs an wis similarly submerged durin ither interglacial periods.
The continental margin, atween the continental shelf an the abyssal plain, comprises a steep continental slope follaed bi the flatter continental rise. Sediment frae the continent abuin cascades doun the slope an accumulates as a pile o sediment at the base o the slope, cried the continental rise. Extendin as far as 500 km frae the slope, it consists o thick sediments depositit bi turbidity currents frae the shelf an slope. The continental rise's gradient is intermediate atween the slope an the shelf, on the order o 0.5–1°.
Unner the Unitit Naitions Convention on the Law o the Sea, the name continental shelf wis gien a legal defineetion as the stretch o the seabed adjacent tae the shores o a pairticular kintra tae which it belangs.