The Mediterranean is old…but not as old as previously thought

The Mediterranean Sea, once thought to have been formed 200 million years ago, is only half as old, scientists now believe.

A report by geologists Amit Segev, Eytan Sass and Uri Schattner details the process whereby the basin started to form before 125 million years and ended about 85 million years ago.

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“We started [with] what’s going on in northern Israel, the Carmel area, which is the very close margin of the basin. Then many people started all over the country so we had the knowledge of the eastern part of the basin,” Segev said.

Previously geologists thought the Levant Basin, the easternmost part of the Mediterranean, opened between the late Paleozoic era and the early Jurassic period, according to the report.

The eastern Mediterranean was created during the breakup of Gondwana—a supercontinent that existed in the southern hemisphere after the breakup of Pangaea—and was then trapped between the Eurasian and the Afro-Arabian tectonic plates.

The three geologists’ research takes into account new evidence from the Levant basin, including the Eratosthenes Seamount, an underwater massif 100 km south of Cyprus.

Their findings could have significant implications for energy companies. The younger the Mediterranean is, the less time gas has had to escape from underwater reservoirs, The Jewish Press reported. Given the sea is only half as old as previously thought, gas deposits there were likely formed during the period of volcanic eruptions 150 million years ago.

“As much as [the oil and gas industry] knows about the geological processes, the scientists that work for these companies need geological information,” Segev said. “So this is important geological info for these specialists who study the evolution of all these organic materials that accumulated within the basin.”