Mediterranean and Tethys

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Abstract

The boundary between the Eurasian and the African plates, formerly the suture between Eurasia and Gondwana, has been the locus of violent tectonic diastrophism and rapidly changing geography since the Triassic. The Mesozoic seas, and sometimes the Paleozoic seas, of this zone and its extension into the Himalayan region are known as the Tethys (Neumayr, 1883; Bittner, 1896; Suess, 1893, 1901; cf. e.g., Kamen-Kaye, 1972), while Tertiary seas are usually called the Mediterranean. From the viewpoint of plate tectonics, it would appear appropriate to talk in general of the African—Eurasian boundary seas. We can try to trace the history of the Tethyan or Mediterranean seas from the breakup of Pangea at the end of the Triassic through the Mesozoic and Cenozoic. The most ambitious attempt to do this has been by Dewey et al. (1973) as a sequel to a model for the opening of the Atlantic Ocean proposed by Pitman and Talwani (1972). However, although the general postulates are valid and, within the framework of plate tectonics, even obvious, the actual implementation of this kinematic jigsaw puzzle is very difficult. It is also ambiguous because of large gaps in information and in the differences in language and interpretation by the various investigators. Indeed, at present, there is no model that would not be seriously questioned by one part or another of the earth science community.