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The Tethys Ocean
Tethys Ocean
(Ancient Greek: Τηθύς), Tethys Sea or Neotethys was an ocean during much of the Mesozoic
Mesozoic
Era located between the ancient continents of Gondwana
Gondwana
and Laurasia, before the opening of the Indian and Atlantic oceans during the Cretaceous
Cretaceous
Period.

Contents

1 Etymology 2 Terminology and subdivisions 3 Modern theory

3.1 Triassic
Triassic
Period 3.2 Jurassic
Jurassic
Period 3.3 Late Cretaceous 3.4 Oligocene 3.5 Today

4 Historical theory 5 See also 6 References

6.1 Notes 6.2 Sources

Etymology[edit] The name stems from the mythological Greek sea goddess Tethys, sister and consort of Oceanus, mother of the great rivers, lakes, and fountains of the world and of the Oceanid
Oceanid
sea nymphs.[citation needed] Terminology and subdivisions[edit] The eastern part of the Tethys Ocean
Tethys Ocean
is sometimes referred to as Eastern Tethys. The western part of the Tethys Ocean
Tethys Ocean
is called Tethys Sea, Western Tethys Ocean, or Paratethys
Paratethys
or Alpine Tethys Ocean. The Black, Caspian, and Aral seas are thought to be its crustal remains, though the Black Sea
Black Sea
may, in fact, be a remnant of the older Paleo-Tethys
Paleo-Tethys
Ocean.[1] The Western Tethys was not simply a single open ocean. It covered many small plates, Cretaceous
Cretaceous
island arcs, and microcontinents. Many small oceanic basins (Valais Ocean, Piemont-Liguria Ocean, Meliata Ocean) were separated from each other by continental terranes on the Alboran, Iberian, and Apulian plates. The high sea level in the Mesozoic
Mesozoic
flooded most of these continental domains, forming shallow seas.[citation needed] As theories have improved, scientists have extended the "Tethys" name to refer to three similar oceans that preceded it, separating the continental terranes: in Asia, the Paleo-Tethys
Paleo-Tethys
(Devonian–Triassic), Meso-Tethys (late Early Permian–Late Cretaceous), and Ceno-Tethy (Late-Triassic–Cenozoic) are recognized.[2] Neither Tethys Ocean should be confused with the Rheic Ocean, which existed to the west of them in the Silurian
Silurian
Period.[3] To the north of the Tethys, the then-land mass was called Angaraland
Angaraland
and to the south of it, it was called Gondwanaland.[citation needed] Modern theory[edit] From the Ediacaran
Ediacaran
(600 Mya) into the Devonian
Devonian
(360 Mya), the Proto-Tethys Ocean existed and was situated between Baltica
Baltica
and Laurentia
Laurentia
to the north and Gondwana
Gondwana
to the south. From the Silurian
Silurian
(440 Mya) through the Jurassic
Jurassic
periods, the Paleo-Tethys Ocean
Paleo-Tethys Ocean
existed between the Hunic terranes and Gondwana. Over a period of 400 million years, continental terranes intermittently separated from Gondwana
Gondwana
in the Southern Hemisphere to migrate northward to form Asia in the Northern Hemisphere.[2] Triassic
Triassic
Period[edit]

Plate tectonic reconstruction of the Tethys realm at 249 Mya

About 250 Mya,[4] during the Triassic, a new ocean began forming in the southern end of the Paleo-Tethys
Paleo-Tethys
Ocean. A rift formed along the northern continental shelf of Southern Pangaea
Pangaea
(Gondwana). Over the next 60 million years, that piece of shelf, known as Cimmeria, traveled north, pushing the floor of the Paleo-Tethys Ocean
Paleo-Tethys Ocean
under the eastern end of northern Pangaea
Pangaea
(i.e.Laurasia). The Tethys Ocean formed between Cimmeria and Gondwana, directly over where the Paleo-Tethys
Paleo-Tethys
used to be.[citation needed] Jurassic
Jurassic
Period[edit] During the Jurassic
Jurassic
period about 150 Mya, Cimmeria finally collided with Laurasia
Laurasia
and stalled, so the ocean floor behind it buckled under, forming the Tethyan Trench. Water levels rose, and the western Tethys shallowly covered significant portions of Europe, forming the first Tethys Sea. Around the same time, Laurasia
Laurasia
and Gondwana
Gondwana
began drifting apart, opening an extension of the Tethys Sea between them which today is the part of the Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
between the Mediterranean
Mediterranean
and the Caribbean. As North and South America were still attached to the rest of Laurasia
Laurasia
and Gondwana, respectively, the Tethys Ocean
Tethys Ocean
in its widest extension was part of a continuous oceanic belt running around the Earth between about latitude 30°N and the Equator. Thus, ocean currents at the time around the Early Cretaceous
Cretaceous
ran very differently from the way they do today.[citation needed] Late Cretaceous[edit]

Plate tectonic reconstruction of the Tethys realm at 100 Mya

Between the Jurassic
Jurassic
and the Late Cretaceous, which started about 100 Mya, Gondwana
Gondwana
began breaking up, pushing Africa and India north across the Tethys and opening up the Indian Ocean. As these land masses crowded in on the Tethys Ocean
Tethys Ocean
from all sides, to as recently as the Late Miocene, 15 Mya, the ocean continued to shrink, becoming the Tethys Seaway or second Tethys Sea. Throughout the Cenozoic
Cenozoic
(66 million to the dawn of the Neogene, 23 Mya), global sea levels fell hundreds of meters, and eventually the connections between the Atlantic and the Tethys closed off in what is now the Middle East.[citation needed] Oligocene[edit] During the Oligocene
Oligocene
(33.9 to 23 Mya), large parts of central and eastern Europe were covered by a northern branch of the Tethys Ocean, called the Paratethys. The Paratethys
Paratethys
was separated from the Tethys with the formation of the Alps, Carpathians, Dinarides, Taurus, and Elburz
Elburz
mountains during the Alpine orogeny. During the late Miocene, the Paratethys
Paratethys
gradually disappeared, and became an isolated inland sea.[citation needed] Today[edit] Today, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, and the Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
cover the area once occupied by the Tethys Ocean, and Turkey, Iraq, and Tibet sit on Cimmeria. What was once the western arm of the Tethys Sea was the ancestor of the present-day Mediterranean
Mediterranean
Sea. Other remnants are the Black, Caspian, and Aral Seas via a former inland branch known as the Paratethys. Most of the floor of the Tethys Ocean
Tethys Ocean
disappeared under Cimmeria and Laurasia.[citation needed] Geologists including Eduard Suess
Eduard Suess
have found fossils of ocean creatures in rocks in the Himalayas, indicating that those rocks were once under water, before the Indian continental shelf began pushing upward as it collided with Cimmeria.[citation needed] Similar geologic evidence can be seen in the Alpine orogeny
Alpine orogeny
of Europe, where the movement of the African plate
African plate
raised the Alps. Greece and the Levant
Levant
also retain many units of limestone and other sedimentary rocks deposited by various stands of the Tethys Ocean.[citation needed] Paleontologists find the Tethys Ocean
Tethys Ocean
particularly important, because many of the world's sea shelves were found around its margins for such an extensive length of time with marine, marsh-dwelling, and estuarian fossils from these shelves.[citation needed] The Solnhofen limestone in Bavaria, originally a coastal lagoon mud of the Tethys Ocean, yielded the famous Archaeopteryx
Archaeopteryx
fossil. Historical theory[edit]

Geologist Eduard Suess
Eduard Suess
in 1869

In 1885, the Austrian palaeontologist Melchior Neumayr
Melchior Neumayr
deduced the existence of the Tethys Ocean
Tethys Ocean
from Mesozoic
Mesozoic
marine sediments and their distribution, calling his concept Zentrales Mittelmeer and described it as a Jurassic
Jurassic
seaway, which extended from the Caribbean
Caribbean
to the Himalayas.[5] In 1893, the Austrian geologist Eduard Suess
Eduard Suess
proposed the theory that an ancient and extinct inland sea had once existed between Laurasia and the continents which formed Gondwana
Gondwana
II. He named it the Tethys Sea after the Greek sea goddess Tethys. He provided evidence for his theory using fossil records from the Alps and Africa.[6] He proposed the concept of Tethys in his four-volume work Das Antlitz der Erde (The Face of the Earth).[7] In the following decades during the 20th century, "mobilist" geologists such as Uhlig (1911), Diener (1925), and Daque (1926) regarded Tethys as a large trough between two supercontinents which lasted from the late Palaeozoic until continental fragments derived from Gondwana
Gondwana
obliterated it. After World War II, Tethys was described as a triangular ocean with a wide eastern end.[citation needed] From 1920s to the 1960s, "fixist" geologists, however, regarded Tethys as a composite trough, which evolved through a series of orogenic cycles. They used the terms 'Paleotethys', 'Mesotethys', and 'Neotethys' for the Caledonian, Variscan, and Alpine orogenies, respectively. In the 1970s and '80s, these terms and 'Proto-Tethys', were used in different senses by various authors, but the concept of a single ocean wedging into Pangea from the east, roughly where Suess first proposed it, remained.[8] In the 1960s, the theory of plate tectonics became established, and Suess's "sea" became clearly to have been in fact an ocean. Plate tectonics provided an explanation for the mechanism by which the former ocean disappeared: oceanic crust can subduct under continental crust.[citation needed] Tethys was considered an oceanic plate by Smith (1971); Dewey, Pitman, Ryan and Bonnin (1973); Laubscher and Bernoulli (1973); and Bijou-Duval, Dercourt and Pichon (1977). See also[edit]

Hațeg Island Paleo-Tethys
Paleo-Tethys
Ocean Pannonian Sea Paratethys Piemont-Liguria Ocean Tethyan Trench Ruhpolding Formation

References[edit] Notes[edit]

^ Van der Voo, Rob (1993). Paleomagnetism of the Atlantic, Tethys and Iapetus Oceans. Cambridge University Press. doi:10.2277/0521612098. ISBN 978-0-521-61209-8.  ^ a b Metcalfe 2013, Introduction, p. 2 ^ Stampfli & Borel 2002, Figs. 3–9 ^ Palaeos Mesozoic: Triassic: Middle Triassic
Triassic
Archived May 16, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. ^ Kollmann 1992 ^ Suess 1893, p. 183: "This ocean we designate by the name "Tethys" after the sister and consort of Oceanus. The latest successor of the Tethyan Sea is the present Mediterranean." ^ Suess 1901, Gondwana-Land und Tethys, p. 25: "Dasselbe wurde von Neumayr das 'centrale Mittelmeer' genannt und wird hier mit dem Namen Tethys bezeichnet werden. Das heutige europäische Mittelmeer ist ein Rest der Tethys." ^ Metcalfe 1999, How many Tethys Oceans?, pp. 1–3

Sources[edit]

Kollmann, H. A. (1992). "Tethys—the Evolution of an Idea". In Kollmann, H. A.; Zapfe, H. New Aspects on Tethyan Cretaceous
Cretaceous
Fossil Assemblages. Springer-Verlag reprint ed. 1992. pp. 9–14. ISBN 978-0387865553. OCLC 27717529. Retrieved 6 October 2015.  Metcalfe, I. (1999). "The ancient Tethys oceans of Asia: How many? How old? How deep? How wide?". UNEAC Asia papers. 1: 1–9. Retrieved 6 October 2015.  Metcalfe, I. (2013). " Gondwana
Gondwana
dispersion and Asian accretion: tectonic and palaeogeographic evolution of eastern Tethys" (PDF). Journal of Asian Earth Sciences. 66: 1–33. doi:10.1016/j.jseaes.2012.12.020. Retrieved 6 October 2015.  Stampfli, G. M.; Borel, G. D. (2002). "A plate tectonic model for the Paleozoic and Mesozoic
Mesozoic
constrained by dynamic plate boundaries and restored synthetic oceanic isochrons" (PDF). Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 196 (1): 17–33. doi:10.1016/S0012-821X(01)00588-X. Retrieved 6 October 2015.  Suess, E. (1893). "Are ocean depths permanent?". Natural Science: A Monthly Review of Scientific Progress. 2. London. pp. 180– 187. Retrieved 6 October 2015.  Suess, E. (1901). Der Antlitz der Erde (in German). 3. Wien F. Tempsky. Retrieved 6 October 2015. 

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WorldCat Identities VIAF: 254773842 N

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