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Tectonic evolution of the Mediterranean: a dame with four husbands

By A. M. C. Şengör


Abstract: The tectonics of the Mediterranean Region since the end of the Hercynian orogeny in Europe has been dominated successively by four major developments largely outside it, whose effects interacted in the Mediterranean to give it its extremely complicated geology. The first influence was that of the consumption of the Paleo-Tethys under Gondwanaland in regions east of the present-day Bulgaria. A second concurrent influence was the right-lateral transpression along the Scythides as far west as the North Dobrudja: this led to the Triassic extension and partial ocean-floor generation in the Carpathians, the Alps and the Pyrenees. These two influences were still active when the Central Atlantic began opening, adding a third influence. This rifted new oceans in the Betics, the Atlas Mountain complex, the Apennines and the Alps. When Gondwanaland began rifting in Late Jurassic, its extensional tectonics began influencing places as far into the Mediterranean as the northern African continental margin east of Libya and parts of the Arabian Peninsula, adding a fourth influence. The Aptian-Albian opening in the South Atlantic finally halted the extension in these areas, but it imposed on Africa a northerly drift component with respect to Laurasia. This led to the generation of new sub-duction zones and the obduction of giant ophiolite nappes. In the northern African continental mar-gin east of Libya, aborted ophiolite obduction led to the generation of the Syrian Arcs orogen, a fore-land fold/thrust system with no corresponding internides. Major continental collisions began in the Eocene, but the final pinching of the Mediterranean basin at both ends was a Miocene affair

Topics: Mediterranean, Scythide shear zone, Paleo-Tethys, Central Atlantic Ocean, South Atlantic Ocean, Gondwanaland, Syrian Arcs orogen
Year: 2016
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