Geologists uncover history of lost continent buried beneath Europe | Science


About 140 million years earlier, Greater Adria—which later on got pushed beneath southern Europe—was a Greenland-size landmass (immersed parts in gray-green) south of the continent.

van Hinsbergen et al., Gondwana Research Study (2019)

Forget the famous lost continent of Atlantis. Geologists have actually rebuilded, time piece by time piece, an almost quarter-of-a-billion-year-long history of a disappeared landmass that now lies immersed, not beneath an ocean someplace, however mostly listed below southern Europe.

The scientists’ analysis represents “a huge amount of work,” states Laurent Jolivet, a geologist at Sorbonne University in Paris who was not associated with the brand-new research study. Although the tectonic history of the landmass has actually been usually understood for a couple of years, he states, “[T]he amount of information in the group’s methodical time-lapse restoration is unmatched.”

The only noticeable residues of the continent—called Greater Adria—are limestones and other rocks discovered in the range of mountains of southern Europe. Researchers think these rocks began as marine sediments and were later on removed the landmass’s surface area and raised through the accident of tectonic plates. Yet the size, shape, and history of the initial landmass—much of which lay beneath shallow tropical seas for millions of years—have actually been difficult to rebuild.

For beginners, Greater Adria had a violent, complex history, keeps in mind Douwe van Hinsbergen, a geologist at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. It ended up being a different entity when it broke away from the southern supercontinent of Gondwana (which comprised what is today Africa, South America, Australia, Antarctica, the Indian subcontinent, and the Arabian Peninsula) about 240 million years earlier and began to move northward, researchers think. About 140 million years earlier, it was a Greenland-size landmass, mostly immersed in a tropical sea, where sediments gathered and gradually developed into rock. Then, as it hit what is now Europe in between 100 million and 120 million years earlier, it shattered into pieces and was pushed beneath that continent. Just a portion of Greater Adria’s rocks, removed in the accident, stayed in the world’s surface area for geologists to find.

Another problem is that Greater Adria’s rocks are distributed throughout more than 30 nations, in a swath from Spain to Iran. So, like the rocks themselves, information have actually been spread and therefore are hard to gather, van Hinsbergen states. And lastly, he keeps in mind, till the previous years or two geologists haven’t had the advanced software application required to carry out such byzantine restorations. “The Mediterranean region is quite simply a geological mess,” he states. “Everything is curved, broken, and stacked.”

In the brand-new research study, van Hinsbergen and his associates invested more than 10 years gathering info about the ages of rock samples believed to be from Greater Adria, along with the instructions of any electromagnetic fields caught in them. That let the scientists recognize not simply when, however where, the rocks were formed.

Instead of just moving north without any modification in its orientation, Greater Adria spun counterclockwise as it jostled and scraped past other tectonic plates, van Hinsbergen’s group reports today in Gondwana Research Study. Although the tectonic accident occurred at speeds of no greater than 3 to 4 centimeters annually, the inexorable smash-up shattered the 100-kilometer-thick bit of crust and sent out most of it deep within Earth’s mantle, van Hinsbergen states.

The research study is not the only proof for Greater Adria as a lost continent. Other scientists who utilize seismic waves to produce electronic tomography–like images of structures deep within Earth have created an “atlas of the underworld”—a graveyard of pieces of crust that have actually sunk into the mantle. This research study reveals that parts of Greater Adria now lie as much as 1500 kilometers listed below our world’s surface area.

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