Encyclopedia of Modern Coral Reefs

2011 Edition
| Editors: David Hopley

Tethys Ocean

  • Rachel Wood
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-90-481-2639-2_158

Definition and introduction

The Tethys was an ancient ocean that existed from 250– ∼50 million years ago before the evolution of the Indian Ocean. Tethys was orientated east–west and separated the large continents of Gondwana and Laurasia. It was named after the ancient Greek goddess of the sea by Eduard Suess in 1893, who inferred the presence of a huge ocean using the record of marine fossils from the Alps and Africa.

Many of the Earth’s tropical continental shelves at this time were found around the margins of the Tethys Ocean, making the Tethys host to many reef ecosystems for a considerable part of the Mesozoic and into the Cenozoic. At its greatest extent, the Tethys Ocean was part of a continuous series of oceans that covered the Earth between ∼30°N and the Equator, creating circulation patterns quite unlike those known today.


In late Permian times (∼280 Ma), the continents were coalesced into one huge landmass known as Pangaea. The C-shaped form of Pangaea enclosed an...

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rachel Wood
    • 1
  1. 1.School of GeoSciencesGrant Institute, University of EdinburghEdinburghUK