Greater Adria was spotted following decades of research, as scientists have been armed with the most advanced software, enabling them to peel off the tectonic plate layers to learn for sure when and where this or that geological phenomenon occurred.
Deep under the azure blue Mediterranean waters, researchers have stumbled upon another “lost continent”, shortly after the same name was scrapped with regard to the famed Atlantis. Scientists from the Universities of Utrecht, Oslo, and Zurich gave a special name to the new find – Greater Adria, which is the size of Greenland, with their findings outlined in the journal Gondwana Research.
According to lead investigator Prof. Douwe van Hinsbergen, the fact that the region is geologically diverse, or rather “a mess”, as he put it, complicated the researchers’ efforts to reconstruct the ocean bottom in the area, including the flagging of geological objects that evolved over the past 240 million years.
To study the evolution of the region, where “everything is curved, broken and stacked”, the research group first collected and then analysed data from 2,300 paleomagnetic sites across over 30 countries with cutting-edge tectonic plate reconstruction software.
© Photo : Van Hinsbergen et al., Gondwana Research (2019)
A reconstruction of Greater Adria, Africa and Europe, approximately 140 million years ago
The latter enabled the Hinsbergen-led team to use fault line and magnetism data to effectively separate the layers, dating back to the Triassic period – the time when the newly-discovered entity split from the supercontinent Gondwana.
“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 van Hinsbergen.
Most of Greater Adria was covered in water, with shallow seas containing deposited sediment-like coral reefs, with some of it still visible in the form of Apennine mountain belts, the Balkans, and parts of the Alps, as well as fragments of Greece and Turkey. The sedimentary rocks were then levelled down, leaving mountain ranges across the region as “deformed” remnants, indicating that there had once been a continent there.
The said software has opened up horizons for further studies of volcanism and earthquakes, enabling researchers to even predict what the area would look like “in the far future”, let alone mapping ore deposits from Greater Adria.
The beginning of the end for Greater Adria occurred some 100 million years ago, when two surrounding tectonic plates started moving, and one of them came into contact with what is now southern Europe. The collision forced it to submerge into the Earth’s mantle, with only small fragments remaining above ground level.