“Greater Adria”, a continent lost for more than 100 million years. Dutch geologists discovered this fragment of the earth’s crust. It would have detached from Pangea before anchoring itself under the European continent. Indeed, in the past, the Earth was made up of supercontinents, which over time separated and collided to create new territories that the blue planet currently knows.
The remains of “Greater Adria” are still visible, researchers report in a study recently published in the journal Gondwana Research. The continental crust would extend over a surface that is covered today by around thirty countries in southern Europe, from the Alps to Iran. Even better, the rocky tangle of this forgotten land can be seen within the mountain ranges around the Adriatic Sea (in southern Italy).
This territory would have been modified 240 million years ago due to the displacement of plate tectonics located in the Mediterranean.
The team of scientists, led by Professor Douwe Van Hinsbergen from the University of Utrecht (Netherlands) spent 10 years gathering geological and geophysical data across all of the territories where rock debris from ” Greater Adria” are still visible.
They then integrated this information into a software called GPlates which made it possible to discover the eventful life of this lost territory.
Geologists replicated a unique model of “Greater Adria” when it split off from the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea to form its own supercontinent.
This one, isolated for millions of years, headed north until it collided with Europe. The recess of this forgotten land under the European crust would have been around 120 million years ago.
“As the earth’s plates slipped, this fragment of continent ended up plunging into the earth’s mantle. This debris then fell back onto the overlying plates, ready to give rise to future mountains running along the spine of Italy but also in Turkey, Greece, the Alps and the Balkans”, announces Douwe van Hinsbergen, interviewed by LiveScience.
Geologists have concluded that the supercontinent was destroyed about 100 million years ago when it met what is now southern Europe.
“Each little fragment took its own course, explains van Hinsbergen. And that’s how you get the big bazaar that is the Mediterranean today. And when the continents disappear, they tend to leave traces” , explains Van Hinsbergen, and among these elements are the scars left by the formation of mountains. This is how the Himalayan range was born too.