Scientists Uncover a Hidden Ancient Connection Between Britain and France
For centuries, scientists have thought the British mainland was created by the coming together of two landmasses, known as Avalonia and Laurentia, more than 400 million years ago.
Now, a study published in the journal Nature Communications proposes the idea that a third landmass, known as Armorica, may have also had a role in its formation, revealing an ancient connection between Britain and France.
âThe results showed that a large part of southwest Britain has geological roots that are identical to those of France," lead author of the study Arjan Dijkstra, from the University of Plymouth, told Newsweek. âGeologically speaking we refer to the fragment that makes up France, Spain, and other parts of southern and central Europe as Armorica."
âSo, we have a bit of Armorica in Britain, which we didn't know about," he said. â That means that Britain is not made of just two continental fragments as we always thought [Laurentia in the North, Avalonia in the south], but that there is a sliver of Armorica too in the very south [Cornwall and South Devon].âRecommended Slideshows67The Best Pictures Ever Taken in Space47Underwater Photographer of the Year 2018 winners: Stunning sharks, shipwrecks and seahorses51Volcanoes from Space: 50 Breathtaking Astronaut and Satellite Photos
The findings are unexpected given that Britain is one of the best-studied regions in the world in terms of ge ology. âIt is a surprise that we have missed this so far,â Dijkstra said.
The team came to their conclusions after examining mineral properties and exposed rock features in the southwest of the British mainland, specifically the counties of Devon and Cornwall.
âWe have some unusual 300-million-year-old volcanic rocksâ"lamprophyresâ"in southwest Britain that are generally ignored because they are quite unusual and complicated,â Dijkstra said. âGeologists still don't fully understand how they form exactly, and they don't fit in most of our rock classification schemes.â
In an attempt to shine a light on these mysterious rocks, he asked his Masterâs student, co-author of the study Callum Hatch, to start investigating them with him a few years ago.
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âOne thing we worked out quickly is that the magma from which these rocks formed must have come from quite deep, 100 kilometers [62 miles] or soâ"much deeper than magmas that form ordinary volcanic rocks,â Dijkstra said. âThis is a level in the Earth that we cannot access directlyâ"drilling only gets us to 10-14 kilometers max.â
Intrigued, they proceeded to visit a number of sites in the southwest, taking rock samples they later chemically analyzed in the lab to understand what was going on deep below the surface.
âMuch to our surprise, when we looked in detail at their chemical compositions, they formed two clear groups,â he said. âOne group had all the chemical properties that we expected based on what we know about British geology. However, the other group was compositionally very different, and we found that they were a perfect match for similar volcanic rocks with the same age in France, which also came from these depths.â
These results, in combination with previous research, indicated to the scientists that there is a clear boundary running across Devon and Cornwall: a reas north of it appear to share their geological roots with the rest of England and Wales, while everything south seems to be geologically linked to France and mainland Europe.
This is a completely new way of thinking about how Britain was formed, according to Dijkstra. It has always been presumed that the border of Avalonia and Armorica was beneath the natural boundary of the English Channel.
This graphic shows how the ancient land masses of Laurentia, Avalonia and Armorica would have collided to create the countries of England, Scotland and Wales.
The findings may also explain the immense abundance of minerals, particularly tin and tungsten, in the southwest of Britainâ"something that has long baffled geologists.
âInterestingly, the mineral wealth that the region is so famous forâ"think Poldarkâ"only occurs o n the Armorican geological fragment that we mapped,â Dijkstra said. âIt has always been a bit of a puzzle why this mining region stopped so abruptly on a map and isn't really duplicated elsewhere in Britain.â
âWe suggest that this fragment of Armorica had the right ingredients to make the tin-tungsten mineral deposits, but Avalonia probably didn't.âSource: Google News France | Netizen 24 France