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(CNN) - Researchers discovered a continent hidden on Earth, but it is not Atlantis. They found it by reconstructing the evolution of the complex geology of the Mediterranean region, which rises with mountain ranges and plunges into seas from Spain to Iran.
The continent is called Grand Adria. It is the size of Greenland and separated from northern Africa, only to be buried under southern Europe about 140 million years ago.
And most likely you have been there without even knowing it.
"Forget Atlantis," said Douwe van Hinsbergen, author of the study and professor of global tectonics and paleogeography at the University of Utrecht. "Without realizing it, a large number of tourists spend their vacations every year on the lost continent of the Grand Adria."
The study was published this month in the journal Gondwana Research .
Investigating the evolution of mountain ranges can show the evolution of the continents.
"Most of the mountain chains we investigated originated from a single continent that separated from North Africa over 200 million years ago," said van Hinsbergen. "The only remaining part of this continent is a strip that runs from Turin through the Adriatic Sea to the heel of the boot that forms Italy."
Geologists call this area Adria, so the researchers in this study refer to the previously undiscovered continent as Gran Adria.
In the Mediterranean region, geologists have a different understanding of plate tectonics. Plate tectonics is the theory behind how oceans and continents form, and for other parts of the Earth, that theory suggests that plates do not deform when they move together in areas with large faults.
But Turkey and the Mediterranean are completely different.
"It's simply a geological disaster: everything is curved, broken and stacked," said van Hinsbergen. “Compared to this, the Himalayas, for example, represents a fairly simple system. There you can follow several large faults over a distance of more than 2,000 kilometers. ”
In the case of the Grand Adria, most of it was underwater, covered by shallow seas, coral reefs and sediments. The sediments formed rocks and those were scraped off like barnacles when the Grand Adria was forced under the mantle of southern Europe. Those discarded rocks became mountain ranges in these areas: the Alps, the Apennines, the Balkans, Greece and Turkey.
"Subduction, the sinking of one plate under the other, is the basic way in which mountain ranges are formed," said Van Hinsbergen. “Our research provided a lot of ideas, also about volcanism and earthquakes, which we are already applying elsewhere. You can even predict, to some extent, what a certain area will look like in the distant future. ”
Reconstructing this evolutionary look at the Mediterranean mountain ranges required collaboration because it covers more than 30 countries, each with its own geological study, maps and pre-existing ideas on how things were formed, the researchers said.
Using plate tectonic reconstruction software, the researchers literally took off the layers to go back in time when the continents seemed very different from the map we know today.
The researchers discovered that Gran Adria began to become its own continent about 240 million years ago during the Triassic period.
"From this mapping emerged the image of the Grand Adria, and also several smaller continental blocks, which are now part of Romania, northern Turkey or Armenia, for example," said Van Hinsbergen. “The deformed remains of the upper few kilometers of the lost continent can still be seen in the mountain ranges. The rest of the piece of continental plate, which was about 100 km thick, sank under southern Europe in the mantle of the earth, where we can still trace it with seismic waves to a depth of 1,500 kilometers. ”
This is not the first time a lost continent is found.
In January 2017, the researchers announced the discovery of a lost continent that remained of the supercontinent Gondwana, which began to break 200 million years ago. The leftover piece, which was covered in lava, is now under Mauritius, an island in the Indian Ocean.
LOOK: They find remains of a lost continent under Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean
And in September 2017, a different research team found the lost continent of Zealand through ocean drilling in the South Pacific. It is two thirds of a mile (about a kilometer) under the sea.
Gran Adria is not the first lost continent to be found. But if research in recent years shows something, it is probably not the last discovery.