Scientists Piece Together Hints of a Lost Continent

'Greater Adria' disappeared beneath Europe eons ago
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 16, 2019 10:49 AM CDT
Updated Sep 21, 2019 3:16 PM CDT
Scientists Piece Together Hints of a Lost Continent
Stock image of tectonic plates.   (Getty/Naeblys)

A lost continent isn't quite as lost as it used to be. Scientists have painstakingly fit together clues spread across Europe to unravel the story of Greater Adria, reports Live Science. This continent was about the size of Greenland when it rammed into what's now southern Europe about 120 million years ago and didn't live to tell the tale. Adria essentially slid beneath Europe, but the process wasn't quite that simple. Here's how Robin George Andrews of National Geographic puts it: "As it dove into the hellish depths of the mantle, the top layer of the continent was scraped away, as if a titan were peeling a colossal apple." The good news for geologists is that bits of that "apple peel" can be found today in mountains around the Adriatic Sea and across more than 30 nations from Spain to Iran, per Science.

While the existence of Greater Adria has been known for some time, the new study in Gondwana Research is the result of 10 years of research and is by far the most detailed account of what happened. Not helping? "The Mediterranean region is quite simply a geological mess," says lead author Douwe van Hinsbergen of Utrecht University, per Science. "Everything is curved, broken, and stacked." While Adria existed, parts of it were submerged, meaning it probably appeared from above to be a string of islands rather than a solid land mass. Researchers say it came into existence about 240 million years ago when it broke off from the supercontinent of Gondwana. This "mother" continent had other spinoffs that did manage to survive: We know them as Africa, South America, Australia, Antarctica, and India, per Smithsonian. (Is there an eighth continent on the way?)

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