Millions of people around the globe travel to Europe on vacation and without knowing it, walk on the remnants of a long-lost continent that existed more than 100 million years ago.
It’s bigger than Atlantis.
According to Geologists, the Mediterranean region is one of the most complex regions on Earth, in terms of geology.
For the first time ever, scientists have managed to actually reconstruct the evolutionary history of the mountain ranges and seas of the region.
The new study, published in Gondwana Research, has revealed that a continent he size of Greenland that separated some 200 million years ago from Northern Africa, plunged into the Earth’s crust just beneath Europe.
“Most mountain chains that we investigated originated from a single continent that separated from North Africa more than 200 million years ago,” explains principal researcher Douwe van Hinsbergen, Professor of Global Tectonics and Paleogeography at Utrecht University.
“The only remaining part of this continent is a strip that runs from Turin via the Adriatic Sea to the heel of the boot that forms Italy.”
Geologists refer to that area as “Adria” and professor Van Hinsbergen has therefore called the lost continent “Greater Adria”.
Greater Adria, Greater than Atlantis
The researchers have revealed that Greater Adria was mostly situated beneath the ocean, forming shallow tropical seas in which sediment was deposited throughout years.
These sedimentary rocks were then scraped when the continent subducted into Earth’s crust. What was left from the rocks are now the mountain belts of the Apennines, part of the Alps, Balkans, Greece, and Turkey.
This proves what a geologically complex region the Mediterranean is. In fact, the region changes a lot of what we know about plate tectonics.
According to the theory of plate tectonics, the various plates of our planet do not deform internally when they move with respect to each other, along large fault zones. But in the Mediterranean, this is not the case.
“It is quite simply a geological mess: everything is curved, broken, and stacked. Compared to this, the Himalayas, for example, represent a rather simple system. There you can follow several large fault lines across a distance of more than 2000 km.”
The new discovery is the result of a decade-long collaboration between scientists from Utrecht, Oslo, and Zürich.
What took them ten years? The researchers say that it took around ten years to gather all the necessary data because not only is this a vast region hosting more than 30 countries, but each of these countries also has their own characteristics.
“This is not only a large region, but it also hosts more than 30 countries. Each of these has its own geological survey, own maps, and own ideas about the evolutionary history. Research often stops at the national borders. Therefore, the region is not just fragmented from a geological perspective,” explained professor Van Hinsbergen.