Images may show start of European-African plate collision


  • J. Mascle,

    1. Géosciences-Azur, Observatoire de Villefranche/mer, BP 48, 06232, Villefranche/mer, France
    Search for more papers by this author
  • C. Huguen,

  • J. Benkhelil,

  • N. Chamot-Rooke,

  • E. Chaumillon,

  • J. P. Foucher,

  • R. Griboulard,

  • A. Kopf,

  • G. Lamarche,

  • A. Volkonskaia,

  • J. Woodside,

  • T. Zitter


Aspects of the initial stages of a collision between European and African plates may have been documented in a geophysical survey of the central Mediterranean Ridge (MR) conducted last year. The idea of an incipient collision was first suggested by Finetti [1976],and details of the seafloor and tectonic deformation along the MR, revealed for the first time in the survey, seem to point in that direction.

A unique opportunity may therefore exist for studying the beginnings of such a collision—between the passive margin of a major plate (Africa) acting as a continental indenter against the active margin of another plate (Europe). More wide angle data, deep penetrating multichannel seismic data, and drilling data are crucial to better assess the nature and the architecture of the underlying lithosphere, the styles of sedimentary deformation, and the consequences on fluid releases. Such data will make it possible to establish, or reject, a geodynamic collision model.