Researchers have discovered a hidden continent on Earth, but it’s not Atlantis. They found it while reconstructing the evolution of Mediterranean region’s complex geology, which rises with mountain ranges and dips with seas from Spain to Iran.
The continent is called Greater Adria. It’s the size of Greenland and it broke off from North Africa, only to be buried under Southern Europe about 140 million years ago.And chances are, you’ve been there without even knowing it.
“Forget Atlantis,” said Douwe van Hinsbergen, study author and professor of global tectonics and paleogeography at Utrecht University. “Without realizing it, vast numbers of tourists spend their holiday each year on the lost continent of Greater Adria.”
The study was published this month in the journal Gondwana Research.
Researching the evolution of mountain ranges can show the evolution of continents. “Most mountain chains that we investigated originated from a single continent that separated from North Africa more than 200 million years ago,” said van Hinsbergen.
“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.”This area is called Adria by geologists, so the researchers for this study refer to the previously undiscovered continent as Greater Adria.
In the Mediterranean region, geologists have a different understanding of plate tectonics. Plate tectonics are the theory behind how oceans and continents form, and for other parts of the Earth, that theory suggests that the plates don’t deform when they move alongside each other in areas with large fault lines. But Turkey, and the Mediterranean, is entirely different.
“It is quite simply a geological mess: Everything is curved, broken and stacked,” said van Hinsbergen. “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 2,000 kilometers.”In the case of Greater Adria, most of it was underwater, covered by shallow seas, coral reefs and sediments. The sediments formed rocks and those were scraped off like barnacles when Greater Adria was forced under the mantle of Southern Europe. Those scrapped rocks became mountain ranges in these areas: the Alps, the Apennines, the Balkans, Greece and Turkey.