The Alboran volcanic-arc modulated the Messinian faunal exchange and salinity crisis

Booth-Rea, Guillermo; Ranero, Cesar R.; Grevemeyer, Ingo

VL / 8 - BP / - EP /
What process triggered the Mediterranean Sea restriction remains debated since the discovery of the Messinian Salinity Crisis (MSC). Recent hypotheses infer that the MSC initiated after the closure of the Atlantic-Mediterranean Betic and Rifean corridors, being modulated through restriction at the Gibraltar Strait. These hypotheses however, do not integrate contemporaneous speciation patterns of the faunal exchange between Iberia and Africa and several geological features like the evaporite distribution. Exchange of terrestrial biota occurred before, during and after the MSC, and speciation models support an exchange path across the East Alboran basin (EAB) located a few hundreds of km east of the Gibraltar Strait. Yet, a structure explaining jointly geological and biological observations has remained undiscovered. We present new seismic data showing the velocity structure of a well-differentiated 14-17-km thick volcanic arc in the EAB. Isostatic considerations support that the arccrust buoyancy created an archipelago leading to a filter bridge across the EAB. Sub-aerial erosional unconformities and onlap relationships support that the arc was active between similar to 10-6 Ma. Progressive arc build-up leading to an archipelago and its later subsidence can explain the extended exchange of terrestrial biota between Iberia and Africa (similar to 7-3 Ma), and agrees with patterns of biota speciation and terrestrial fossil distribution before the MSC (10-6.2 Ma). In this scenario, the West Alboran Basin (WAB) could then be the long-postulated open-marine refuge for the Mediterranean taxa that repopulated the Mediterranean after the MSC, connected to the deep restricted Mediterranean basin through a sill at the Alboran volcanic arc archipelago.

Access level

Gold DOAJ, Green published, Green accepted