The largest lake ever known ran in Europe

Millions of years ago, the landscape to the east of the Alps looked very different. There were no fertile plains, no great steppes in Asia, and no deserts in Kazakhstan.

Much of what is now Eastern Europe and Asia was covered by a huge lake. It was the largest lake in world history, larger than the Mediterranean now.

The remnants of a huge lake are still the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. They were once the giant pools of this giant lake.

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The lake is now called Paratethys. When it dried, the site was covered by the shallow Pannonian Sea, which covered the plain area now known as the Carpathian Basin.

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Many of the animals familiar from the African savannas originally developed on the outskirts of Lake Paratethys.

To the south of the lake, the area of ​​present-day Middle East was a forest and savannah where the ancestors of giraffes and rhinos lived. As natural disasters emptied the lake and the Middle East dried up into a desert, animals migrated to Africa.

This is evident from two recent studies that have mapped the rise and destruction of the largest lake in history.

Scientific Reports in a published article by the Paleo Oceanographer of the University of São Paulo Dan Palcu draws the boundaries of the ancient lake and outlines its life cycle.

Paratethys was born 12 million years ago when continental plates collapsed. A huge lake stood out from the Tethys World Sea, which divided Africa and Europe, when the forming mountains closed some of the water masses to Eurasia.

Lake Paratethys, separated from the sea, covered the country between the present Alps and Kazakhstan.

The water of Paratethys was low-salinity brackish water like the water of the Baltic Sea. When Lake Megajärst was formed, its salinity was 12–14 per mille, about a third of the salinity of the oceans.

Unique animal species evolved into the huge lake. Among other things, the smallest known whale, Cetotherium riabinini. The little whale was smaller than the bottlenose dolphin, only about three feet tall.

Remains of various dwarf whales have been found in the Caucasus mountains and Moldova. There are examined including an evolutionary biologist at the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences Pavel Goldin.

Other marine mammals that lived in the lake, such as dolphins and seals, were smaller than their cousins ​​in the ocean. Small size was an advantage in the ecosystem.

At its largest, Paratethys covered an area of ​​2.8 million square kilometers.

In relation to Europe, it would cover the whole country from France to the eastern border of Ukraine. Jättijärvi had ten times more water than all current lakes in the world combined.

Paratethys waved for millions of years. During that time, the shapes of the earth lived and the climate varied. Jättijärvi shrank and swelled at least four times in turn.

However, eight million years ago there was an exceptional drought. The surface of Paratethys sank 250 meters over hundreds of thousands of years. The lake shrank to a third of what it was at its largest. The salt condensed into the deep central basin of the lake, or approximately the present-day Black Sea, which became as salty as the oceans.

These huge changes drove species to extinction, but many mollusks, for example, adapted to new conditions. The history of the lake can be read from the rock formations and fossils of the area.

As the lake dried up, its former bottom turned into a grassy plain.

The swelling and drying of Lake Jättijärvi is associated with drastic changes in the region’s climate over millions of years. As the savannahs dried up into the desert, animals migrated to greener areas of Africa.

The surface of the lake rose and fell, but the upheavals of the earth finally pulled the plug off the bottom of Paratethys about seven million years ago.

At the southwestern edge of the lake, approximately in the area of ​​what is now the Aegean Sea, a river formed through which the waters flowed into the Mediterranean.


Source: Tiede by www.tiede.fi.

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