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The Mediterranean Sea is a net result of colliding continents. Using a Pangaea and a Gondwanaland reconstruction and plate tectonic models, the authors describe the origin and evolution of the Mediterranean Sea. From the beginning of the gradual disappearance of the Tethys sea (which was the ancestor of part of the Mediterranean), concurrent with the beginning of the formation of the Alps, to approximately 5 m.y.B.P., the Mediterranean region has evolved through extreme change. Approximately 200 m.y.B.P., during the Jurassic, as a result of African and Eurasian plate movements (and subsequent microplate movement in surrounding areas), the Tethys began to contract, and by approximately 65 m.y.B.P., it was completely closed to form an inland sea, the Mediterranean.
Since that time, the Mediterranean Sea has progressively widened and deepened due to subsidence, rifting, and sea-floor subduction. The movements of the Iberian plate alternately closed and reopened the Mediterranean "gate" to the Atlantic Ocean. From approximately 12 m.y.B.P. to approximately 5.5 m.y.B.P., parts of the sea completely dried up and periodically refilled due to these movements. Massive evaporite deposits that covered parts of the sea floor to depths of as much as 2 km in places are striking evidence of these closed phases. However, in the future the geologic stability of the region could once again be shattered, plate movements could again close the Atlantic "gate," and parts of the Mediterranean could again become deserts.
Continuing research and probing of the depths of the sea will provide the data needed to better understand the plate movements of the past and guide us to the formulation of models of plate movements of the future. The study of such plate movements will also add to a better understanding of the deposition of sediments and the tectonics pertinent to the accumulation of petroleum. Views of the Mediterranean from space show an interesting perspective of the geologic setting and provide additional clues to areas of potential petroleum deposits.
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