Adria, the African promontory, in mesozoic Mediterranean palaeogeography

J. E.T. Channell, B. D'Argenio, F. Horváth

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The orogenic belts encircling the present-day Adriatic Sea are the deformed Mesozoic continental margin of an area known as Adria, the outline of which began to take shape during Middle Triassic continental rifting. Early Jurassic oceanic rifting was usually close to, but not coincident with, sites of earlier continental rifting. The Triassic rifted zones were usually incorporated into the continental margin of Adria, profoundly influencing its subsequent development. The Mesozoic platform/basin morphology of this margin can be correlated along the length of the belt. Palaeomagnetic data from autochthonous outcrops of the foreland of Adria do not indicate relative rotation and moreover suggest that this foreland has moved in coordination with Africa since the Early Mesozoic. Seismic soundings indicate that thick Mesozoic sedimentary sequences which can be correlated with sections on the African platform are continuous beneath the eastern Mediterranean seas. The concept of Adria as having behaved as a promontory of the African plate is tested by correlation of the main tectonic events in the belt with the spreading history of the Atlantic. The simplest model which adequately accounts for available data comprises a continuous Mesozoic continental margin from the Magrebids of Tunisia, through the Apennines, Alps, Dinarides and Hellenides to the alpine belt of Turkey. This margin was the southern margin of the Mesozoic Tethys and its foreland was more or less continuous with the African platform. Some structural and geochemical features of the double ophiolitic belt on the eastern side of Adria may be explained in terms of more external oceanic branches giving a more diversified continental margin of Adria. The present undulations of the Periadriatic belt are mainly a product of Late Cretaceous to recent deformation, which severely modified the shape of this margin by continental collision and by subsequent development of back-arc features.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-292
Number of pages80
JournalEarth Science Reviews
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 1979


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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