May 16, 2022

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A forgotten continent 40 million years ago may have just been rediscovered

A forgotten continent 40 million years ago may have just been rediscovered

A new study finds that the low-lying continent that existed about 40 million years ago and was home to exotic animals “paved the way” for Asian mammals to colonize southern Europe.

This forgotten continent lies between Europe, Africa and Asia, and this forgotten continent – which researchers dubbed “Balkantolia” – became a gateway between Asia and Europe when sea level fell and a land bridge formed about 34 million years ago.

“When and how the first wave of Asian mammals reached southeastern Europe remains poorly understood,” paleogeologist Alexis Licht and colleagues Write in their new study.

But the result was exciting. About 34 million years ago, at the end of Eocene In the era, huge numbers of native mammals disappeared from Western Europe with the emergence of new Asian mammals, in a sudden extinction event now known as Grande Copy.

Recent fossil discoveries in the Balkans, however, have upended this timeline, pointing to a ‘strange’ biome that appears to have enabled Asian mammals to colonize southeastern Europe as much as 5-10 million years before the Great Solstice.

To investigate, Licht, of the French National Center for Scientific Research, and colleagues re-examined evidence from all known fossil sites in the area, covering the present Balkan Peninsula And the Anatoliathe western outcrop of Asia.

The age of these sites was revised based on current geological data, and the team reconstructed ancient geographic changes that occurred in the area, which has a “complex history of accidental sinking and re-emergence.”

What they found suggests that Balkanolia served as a springboard for animals to move from Asia to Western Europe, with the transformation of an ancient land mass from a free-standing continent into a land bridge—and subsequent invasion with Asian mammals—coinciding with some “dramatic paleogeographical changes.”

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Balkantolia, 40 million years ago, and today. (Alexis Licht, Grégoire Métais / CNRS)

About 50 million years ago, the Balkans were an isolated archipelago, separated from neighboring continents, where a unique group of animals flourished different from those of Europe and East Asia, according to the analysis.

Then a combination of lower sea levels, growing Antarctic ice sheets and tectonic shifts linked the Balkans continent to Western Europe, 40 to 34 million years ago.

This allowed Asian mammals, including rodents and four-hoofed mammals (also known as ungulates) Westward adventure and conquest Balkantolia, The fossil record is shown.

In addition to that record, Licht and colleagues also discovered parts of the jawbone belonging to animal like unicorn in new Fossil site in Turkey, dating from about 38 to 35 million years ago.

higher mammalsThe upper molar of an Asian mammal of the species Brontothere. (Alexis Licht, Grégoire Métais / CNRS)

It can be said that the fossil is the oldest Asia-like ungulate discovered in Anatolia so far and The Grand Coupure predates it by at least 1.5 million years, indicating that Asian mammals were on their way to Europe via the Balkans.

This southern route to Europe through the Balkans was probably more suitable for adventurous animals than crossing the higher latitude routes through Central Asia which at the time were drier, colder, desert steppes, Licht and colleagues suggest.

However, hmm point out In their paper that ‘last contact Between individual Balkan islands and the existence of this southern dispersal route is still debated”, and that the story put together thus far “is based solely on mammal fossils and a more complete picture of former Balkan biodiversity remains to be painted”.

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Many geological changes that led to Balkanolia is not yet fully understood, and it is important to note that this review is only a single team’s interpretation of the fossil record.

However, the fossil record of mammals and other vertebrates living on islands is usually sparse and incomplete, while Balkantolia’s rich terrestrial fossil record provides “a unique opportunity to document the evolution and extinction of island life at a long time,” the team said. Concludes.

The study was published in Earth Science Reviews.