Forty years after the image of the Mediterranean transformed into a giant salty lake was first conceived, the fascinating history of the Messinian Salinity Crisis (MSC) still arouses great interest across a large and diverse scientific community. Early outcrop studies which identified severe palaeoenvironmental changes affecting the circum-Mediterranean at the end of the Miocene, were followed by investigations of the marine geology during the 1950s to 1970s. These were fundamental to understanding the true scale and importance of the Messinian event. Now, after a long period of debate over several entrenched but largely untested hypotheses, a unifying stratigraphic framework of MSC events has been constructed. This scenario is derived mainly from onshore data and observations, but incorporates different perspectives for the offshore and provides hypotheses that can be tested by drilling the deep Mediterranean basins. The MSC was an ecological crisis, induced by a powerful combination of geodynamic and climatic drivers, which had a great impact on the subsequent geological history of the Mediterranean area, and on the salinity of the global oceans. These changed the Mediterranean's connections with both the Atlantic Ocean and the freshwater Paratethyan basins, causing high-amplitude fluctuations in the hydrology of the Mediterranean. The MSC developed in three main stages, each of them characterized by different palaeoenvironmental conditions. During the first stage, evaporites precipitated in shallow sub-basins; the MSC peaked in the second stage, when evaporite precipitation shifted to the deepest depocentres; and the third stage was characterized by large-scale environmental fluctuations in a Mediterranean transformed into a brackish water lake. The very high-resolution timescale available for some Late Miocene intervals in the Mediterranean makes it possible to consider environmental variability on extremely short time scales including, in some places, annual changes. Despite this, fundamental questions remain, some of which could be answered through new cores from the deepest Mediterranean basins. Improvements in seismic imaging and drilling techniques over the last few decades make it possible to plan to core the entire basinal Messinian succession for the first time. The resulting data would allow us to decipher the causes of this extreme environmental change and its global-scale consequences
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