34 million years ago a cataclysm shook Europe: there was a massive extinction of the fauna that populated the continent. This event is known as the Grande Coupure, or the Great Bankruptcy, and among the explanations that scientists have considered so far are a sudden change in temperatures and the pressure that the Asian species exerted on the local ones. Theories that reinforce the recent discovery of a lost land mass under the waters of the Aegean and Adriatic seas that linked the Balkan and Anatolian peninsulas and would have facilitated transit from Asia to Europe.
This continent, baptized as Balkanatolia precisely because it joined both peninsulas, would have emerged and sunk alternately throughout the Eocene period, which ranges from 56 to 34 million years ago, intermittently forming a large island or archipelago.
And towards the end of the Eocene, a sudden drop in temperatures would have caused drops in sea level and glaciations that lor would have become a bridge between Asia and Europe for a long period of time. This would have facilitated the passage of all kinds of Asian species to the south of the Old Continent, from rhinos to hamsters, the researchers say.
The authors of the research, a team of French, American and Turkish geologists and paleontologists, raised this hypothesis after making new discoveries of fossils in Turkey, between 38 and 35 million years ago, belonging to mammals with clear asian morphologythe first remains of these characteristics found in the area so far.
After that discovery, they reviewed the paleontological discoveries that have been made since the 19th century on the shores of the Aegean and the Adriatic, and found that the areas of Anatolia and the Balkans harbored a homogeneous terrestrial fauna during much of the Eocene, and different from that of the rest of Europe and East Asia, which led them to raise the theory of the large intermittent island of Balkanatoliaaccording to the French National Center for Scientific Research.
In that review, the study authors also found that previous research had documented finds of mammalian remains showing affinity to Asian species in regions of Italy or the Balkans. up to 10 million years before the Grande Coupure occurred.
All this has led them to conclude that Balkanatolia was an isolated island or group of islands during a good part of the Eocene, with an autochthonous fauna different from that of Europe and Asia. Towards the end of that geological epoch, the cooling of the planet caused the waters to drop and in some places to freeze, which would have allowed Asian species to reach Balkanatolia firstas shown by the fossil remains found in Turkey, the Balkans and Italy, and later, when temperatures dropped even further, to the rest of Europe, beginning the Grande Coupure.
Image | Christian Palmer