Orogenic architecture of the Mediterranean region and kinematic reconstruction of its tectonic evolution since the Triassic

Douwe van Hinsbergen, Trond Torsvik, Stefan Schmid, Liviu Matenco, Marco Maffione, Reinoud L.M. Vissers, Derya Gürer, Wim Spakman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Citations (Scopus)
496 Downloads (Pure)


The basins and orogens of the Mediterranean region ultimately result from the opening of oceans during the early break-up of Pangea since the Triassic, and their subsequent destruction by subduction accommodating convergence between the African and Eurasian Plates since the Jurassic. The region has been the cradle for the development of geodynamic concepts that link crustal evolution to continental break-up, oceanic and continental subduction, and mantle dynamics in general. The development of such concepts requires a first-order understanding of the kinematic evolution of the region for which a multitude of reconstructions have previously been proposed. In this paper, we use advances made in kinematic restoration software in the last decade with a systematic reconstruction protocol for developing a more quantitative restoration of the Mediterranean region for the last 240 million years. This restoration is constructed for the first time with the GPlates plate reconstruction software and uses a systematic reconstruction protocol that limits input data to marine magnetic anomaly reconstructions of ocean basins, structural geological constraints quantifying timing, direction, and magnitude of tectonic motion, and tests and iterations against paleomagnetic data. This approach leads to a reconstruction that is reproducible, and updatable with future constraints. We first review constraints on the opening history of the Atlantic (and Red Sea) oceans and the Bay of Biscay. We then provide a comprehensive overview of the architecture of the Mediterranean orogens, from the Pyrenees and Betic-Rif orogen in the west to the Caucasus in the east and identify structural geological constraints on tectonic motions. We subsequently analyze a newly constructed database of some 2300 published paleomagnetic sites from the Mediterranean region and test the reconstruction against these constraints. We provide the reconstruction in the form of 12 maps being snapshots from 240 to 0 Ma, outline the main features in each time-slice, and identify differences from previous reconstructions, which are discussed in the final section.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-229
Number of pages151
JournalGondwana Research
Early online date3 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


  • Cenozoic
  • GPLates
  • Mediterranean
  • Mesozoic
  • plate tectonics
  • reconstruction


Dive into the research topics of 'Orogenic architecture of the Mediterranean region and kinematic reconstruction of its tectonic evolution since the Triassic'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this