The continent of Greater Adria has been revealed. It is reminiscent of Zealandia. Using computer software called GPlates, which is software for the visualization of plate tectonics, scientists learned more about this continent and its journey. Greater Adria was once part of Pangaea. There is still much to be discovered on Earth.
“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. This wreckage was dumped onto the overlying plates, ready to form future mountains along the spine of Italy, as well as in Turkey, Greece, the Alps, and the Balkans.
Several slivers of the continent dodged both a gnarly shave and slow obliteration through subduction. These unsullied relics of Greater Adria can be found today in the heel of Italy’s boot, scattered from Venice to Turin, and in Croatia’s Istria region—which means you can take a vacation on the splinters of a lost continent.
Around 240 million years ago, Greater Adria was part of the Pangea supercontinent, squashed up against what is now northern Africa, Spain, and southern France. It broke away from Africa 20 million years later, then separated from France and Spain 40 million years after that to become an isolated continent.
Although its geography remains unclear for now, it was probably a bit like the largely submerged continent of Zealandia, with chunks of land (in this case, New Zealand and New Caledonia) sticking up from the sea. It might also have been a bit like the Florida Keys, with an archipelago of non-volcanic islands propped up above the waves.
The destruction of Greater Adria began in earnest 100 million years ago, when it encountered what is now southern Europe and parts of it dove beneath a range of plates all over the region. This scattershot subduction of the continent meant that “every little piece had its own history,” van Hinsbergen says. “And then you end up with the mess that is now the Mediterranean.”
Crucially, though, “if continents disappear, they tend to leave marks,” van Hinsbergen says, and that includes the scars of mountain building.”
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