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Can a now-lost continent shed light on the evolution of mammals?


Well, mainly of population replacements of mammals:

A team of geologists and palaeontologists has discovered that, some 50 million years ago, there was a low-lying continent separating Europe from Asia that they have named Balkanatolia. At the time, it was inhabited by an endemic fauna that was very different from those of Europe and Asia. Geographical changes 40 to 34 million years ago connected this continent to its two neighbors, paving the way for the replacement of European mammals by Asian mammals.

CNRS, “Balkanatolia: The forgotten continent that sheds light on the evolution of mammals” at ScienceDaily (February 22, 2022)

If this checks out, we can add Balkanatolia to the “lost continent” files. It would make a good documentary:

For millions of years during the Eocene Epoch (55 to 34 million years ago), Western Europe and Eastern Asia formed two distinct land masses with very different mammalian faunas: European forests were home to endemic fauna such as Palaeotheres (an extinct group distantly related to present-day horses, but more like today’s tapirs), whereas Asia was populated by a more diverse fauna including the mammal families found today on both continents.

We know that, around 34 million years ago, Western Europe was colonised by Asian species, leading to a major renewal of vertebrate fauna and the extinction of its endemic mammals, a sudden event called the ‘Grande Coupure’. Surprisingly, fossils found in the Balkans point to the presence of Asian mammals in southern Europe long before the Grande Coupure, suggesting earlier colonisation.

Now, a team led by CNRS researchers has come up with an explanation for this paradox. To do this, they reviewed earlier palaeontological discoveries, some of which date back to the 19th century, sometimes reassessing their dating in the light of current geological data. The review revealed that, for much of the Eocene, the region corresponding to the present-day Balkans and Anatolia was home to a terrestrial fauna that was homogeneous, but distinct from those of Europe and eastern Asia. This exotic fauna included, for example, marsupials of South American affinity and Embrithopoda (large herbivorous mammals resembling hippopotamuses) formerly found in Africa. The region must therefore have made up a single land mass, separated from the neighbouring continents.

CNRS, “Balkanatolia: The forgotten continent that sheds light on the evolution of mammals” at ScienceDaily (February 22, 2022)

The paper requires a subscription or fee.

You may also wish to read: Did giant mountain ranges provide nutrients in early Earth’s history? According to the new thesis, the erosion of mountains provided nutrients that were hitherto unavailable, that helped life forms get started. Sounds like a rollout, actually.


Researchers: Poisonous cyanide may have been a harbinger of life 4 billion years ago Note the “may have” and “could have been.” That’s where a lot of origin of life studies are, really. Nothing wrong with that, of course, as long as it is not mistaken for “the findings of science.” It’s speculation, pure and simple. It would be a great hard sci-fi novel, maybe a flick. And fun for chemistry students!

Isn't this just Atlantis? polistra

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