WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Utrecht University researchers have uncovered a continent which appeared to have been hidden under Southern Europe about 140 million years ago.
- Called Greater Adria, the continent is as big as Greenland and was found to have been separated from North Africa.
- Through the use of plate tectonic software, it started turning into a continent around 240 million years ago.
Scientists have unearthed a hidden continent on Earth, but it’s not Atlantis. Chances are, tourists may have visited it without knowing it.
Dubbed Greater Adria by geologists, the continent is the size of Greenland, which separated from North Africa only to be concealed under Southern Europe around 140 million years ago.
According to a recently published study in the journal Gondwana Research, the majority of the mountain chains that were studied came from a single continent that broke off from North Africa over 200 million years ago.
“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,” said study author and professor of global tectonics and paleogeography, Douwe van Hinsbergen, of Utrecht University.
Plate tectonics is the theory that explains how oceans, continents and other parts of the Earth form. It also suggests that plates are not distorted when moving alongside each other in areas with large fault lines.
However, plate tectonics in Turkey and the Mediterranean regions is a different story.
“It is quite simply a geological mess: Everything is curved, broken and stacked,” said van Hinsbergen, who added that it is the opposite of the Himalayas, where several large fault lines across a distance of more than 2,000 kilometers can be tracked.
Most of Greater Adria was submerged in shallow seas, coral reefs and sediments. Those sediments formed rocks that were scraped off, when Greater Adria was lodged under the mantle of Southern Europe, eventually forming mountain ranges that included the Alps, the Apennines, the Balkans, Greece and Turkey.
Van Hinsbergen explained that joint efforts were required when restoring this evolutionary look at mountain ranges in the Mediterranean because it covered over 30 countries, each with their own geological survey, maps and pre-conceived ideas about how they were formed.
With the use of plate tectonic reconstruction software, the researchers discovered that about 240 million years ago during the Triassic period, Greater Adria started forming into a continent.
“From this mapping, emerged the picture of Greater Adria, and several smaller continental blocks too, which now form parts of Romania, North Turkey or Armenia, for example,” said Van Hinsbergen.
He also added that while the misshapen fragments of the lost continent can still be seen in the mountain ranges, the rest of the 100km-thick continental plate was hurtled down into the earth’s mantle, where it can still be detected with seismic waves of up to a depth of 1,500 kilometers.
Greater Adria isn’t the first lost continent to be found. However, if previous researches would eventually reveal anything, then it won’t be the last.