Our world surprises us more and more each day with things we never realized. The discovery of “Greater Adria” is one of those surprising things, a continent that was once part of the African tectonic plate but was eventually scraped off when it smashed into Europe.
According to the lead author of the study about “Greater Adria,” Douwe van Hinsbergen, the clashing of these landmasses around 100 to 120 million years ago led to some parts of the Greater Adria to be submerged under Europe. Before it completely disappeared, some rocks managed to escape sinking into the mantle thanks to their lightness.
|Greater Adria Continent / Photo by: Douwe van Hinsbergen via Live Science|
Some of the parts of the land that did survive “crumpled” and formed the “mountain chains” of the Alps.
The team studied these rocks by looking at primeval bacteria on the rocks, which is essentially bacteria that managed to live on until today but still bear compounds from their long lives. They found that these bacteria had helped form tiny, magnetic minerals that helped them “orient themselves within the Earth’s magnetic field.”
Hinsbergen and his team came to this conclusion after studying these bacteria in their frozen stage.
|Europe today / Photo by: NASA and Goddard Space Flight Center via Wikimedia Commons|
If these bacteria had been alive then to orient a landmass, the scientists looked for signs of decay in these bacteria, approximating their age and working backward from there. The death of the bacteria was crucial, as was the sediment around that eventually turned them into rocks. When they become rocks, these prehistoric bacteria stay frozen “in the orientation they were in hundreds of millions of years ago.” That means that when the time comes and scientists manage to unearth them, they would be given a more or less accurate time frame of the existence of these rocks, what with its frozen state.
From this, it was easy enough to reconstruct.
Hinsbergen likens the process to piecing bits and pieces together “like a broken plate” of faults and rock pieces and particles.
"All the bits and pieces are jumbled up and I spent the last 10 years making the puzzle again," Hinsbergen said. He admits that there is still a possibility for error, and for that he says his hope is that scientists some 5 to 10 years can come forward and “demonstrate that parts are wrong” so that he can check back to see if he can “fix it.”
|European Alps / Photo by: JanVonCountry via Wikimedia Commons|