The seven wonders of the world may be getting a new addition. Researchers have uncovered a continent the size of Greenland mostly hiding underwater in the Mediterranean.
Dubbed "Greater Adria" by its founders at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, the missing piece of continental crust seemingly separated from North Africa and lodged itself under Southern Europe. While most of the continent is underwater, much of the land mass's sedimentary pieces were scraped off during its great migration. Those scrapings now make up European mountain belts, including parts of the Alps, Greece and Turkey.
"It is quite simply a geological mess. Everything is curved, broken and stacked," said Utrecht professor Douwe van Hinsbergen, who was a principal researcher. "Compared to this, the Himalayas, for example, represent a rather simple system."
The Mediterranean region is "geologically among the most complex" on Earth, according to researchers. Van Hinsbergen said the continent's large area contributed to its past due discovery.
"... it also hosts more than 30 countries. Each of these has its own geological survey, own maps and own ideas about the evolutionary history," he said. "Research often stops at the national borders."
Van Hinsbergen believes that Greater Adria shifted from Africa more than 200 million years ago. The only part of Greater Adria still around its original location is a strip stretching through the Adriatic Sea. The spot, known as Adria, connects Turin in Northern Italy to the heel of Italy's boot-shaped southern land.
Scientists reconstructed the continent's size and shape with advanced plate tectonic reconstruction software. They used "thousands of pieces of information" about fault lines, stored magnetism in rocks and other Earth movements to create the final image.
The research was published in the scientific journal "Gondwana Research" earlier this month.