The evolution of Paratethys: the lost sea of Central Eurasia


Paratethys was a large epicontinental sea, stretching from Germany to China at the beginning of the Oligocene (~34 Myr ago), that progressively retreated by a complex combination of basin infill, glacio-eustatic sea-level lowering and tectonic uplift to its present-day remnants: Black Sea, Caspian Sea and Aral Lake. The influence of Paratethys on global change is still a great unknown, mainly through lack of relevant studies in this terra incognita, although model studies suggest a major effect of sea retreat on climate and environment1. My aim here is to comprehend the causes of the extreme environmental changes that occurred in Central Eurasia. I will use high-resolution geochronology together with integrated stratigraphy and geochemical proxies (deuterium, strontium, neodymium) to unravel internal (geodynamics, tectonic uplift) from external (climate, glacio-eustatic sea-level change) forcing factors and to resolve the effects of Paratethys restriction (regional climate perturbations, biotic crises, aridification). To this end, I will focus on three time slices (PhD projects) when progressive sea retreat and variations in interbasinal connectivity generated extreme environmental changes:
1) The birth of Paratethys (~34 Ma), resulting in deposition of anoxic shales during a complex combination of tectonic uplift and global cooling.
2) Its midlife crisis in the Badenian (~14 Ma) when gateway restriction created massive salt deposits during the middle Miocene climate transition.
3) The demise of Paratethys (8-4 Ma), transforming open marine environments into lacustrine deltaic systems, and leading to alternating phases of desiccation and flooding.
Numerical models (postdoc) will be used to test and refine hypotheses that emerge from the integration of the time slice projects. Fundamental rock magnetic studies will standardize microfossil greigite techniques, intended to revolutionize magnetostratigraphic dating in brackish-lacustrine paleoenvironments (postdoc). This multi-disciplinary approach - excellently fitting my research expertise - provides the only way to attain a comprehensive system view on long-term Paratethys evolution.


Scientific article

  • L. Chang, M. Winklhofer, A.P. Roberts, D. Heslop, F. Florindo, M.J. Dekkers, W. Krijgsman, K. Kodama, Y. Yamamoto(2013): Low-temperature magnetic properties of pelagic carbonates: oxidation of biogenic magnetite and identification of magnetosome chains Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth pp. 1 - 17
  • M. Ter Borgh, I. Vasiliev, M. Stoica, S. Knezevic, L. Matenco, W. Krijgsman, L. Rundic, S. Cloetingh(2013): The isolation of the Pannonian basin (Central Paratethys): new constraints from magneto- and biostratigraphy Global and Planetary Change pp. 99 - 118
  • B. Reichenbacher, W. Krijgsman, et al.(2013): A new magnetostratigraphic framework for the Lower Miocene (Burdigalian/Ottnangian, Karpatian) in the North Alpine Foreland Basin. Swiss Journal of Geosciences pp. 309 - 334
  • A. de Leeuw, S. Filipescu, L. Matenco, W. Krijgsman, K.F. Kuiper, M. Stoica(2013): Paleomagnetic and chronostratigraphic constraints on the Middle to Late Miocene evolution of the Transylvanian Basin (Romania): implications for Central Paratethys stratigraphy and emplacement of the Tisza-Dacia plate Global and Planetary Change pp. 82 - 98
  • M. Stoica, I. Lazar, W. Krijgsman, I. Vasiliev, D. Jipa, A. Floroiu(2013): Palaeoenvironmental evolution of the East Carpathian foredeep during the late Miocene - early Pliocene (Dacian Basin; Romania) Global and Planetary Change pp. 135 - 148
  • V. Manzi, R. Gennari, S. Lugli, M. Roveri, F.J. Hilgen, W. Krijgsman, F.J. Sierro(2013): Age refinement of the Messinian salinity crisis onset in the Mediterranean. Terra Nova pp. 315 - 322
  • I. Vasiliev, G.J. Reichart, W. Krijgsman(2013): Impact of the Messinian Salinity Crisis on Black Sea hydrology - Insights from hydrogen isotopes analysis on biomarkers Earth and Planetary Science Letters pp. 272 - 282
  • C.G.C. Van Baak, I. Vasiliev, M. Stoica, K. Kuiper, A. Forte, E. Aliyeva, W. Krijgsman(2013): A magnetostratigraphic time frame for Plio-Pleistocene transgressions in the South Caspian Basin, Azerbaijan Global and Planetary Change pp. 119 - 134
  • M. Roveri, R. Flecker, W. Krijgsman, et al.(2014): The Messinian Salinity Crisis: past and future of a great challenge for marine sciences Marine Geology pp. 25 - 58
  • L. Chang(2014): Identification and environmental interpretation of diagenetic and biogenic greigite in sediments: a lesson from the Messinian Black Sea Geochem. Geophys, Geosys pp. 1 - 16
  • A. Grothe, F. Sangiorgi, Y.R. Mulders, I. Vasiliev, G.-J. Reichart, H. Brinkhuis, M. Stoica, W. Krijgsman(2014): Black Sea desiccation during the Messinian Salinity Crisis: fact or fiction? Geology pp. 563 - 566
  • D. Palcu(2015): The Badenian-Sarmatian Extinction Event in the Carpathian foredeep basin of Romania: paleogeographic changes in the Paratethys domain Global and Planetary Change pp. 346 - 358
  • C.G.C. Van Baak(2015): Messinian events in the Black Sea Terra Nova pp. 433 - 441
  • K. Sant(2015): Paleomagnetic analyses on Badenian-Sarmatian drill cores from the North Carpathian Foredeep (Middle Miocene, Poland) Bull. Polish Geol. Ins. pp. 179 - 192
  • C.G.C. Van Baak(2015): The Slanicul de Buzau section, a unit stratotype for the Romanian stage of the Dacian Basin (Plio-Pleistocene, Eastern Paratethys) Palaeogeogr. Palaeoclimatol. Palaeoecol. pp. 594 - 613
  • I. Vasiliev(2015): Recurrent phases of drought in the upper Miocene of the Black Sea region Palaeogeogr. Palaeoclimatol. Palaeoecol. pp. 18 - 31
  • C.G.C van Baak, W. Krijgsman, A. Grothe(2016): Mediterranean-Paratethys connectivity during the Messinian salinity crisis: The Pontian of Azerbaijan Global and Planetary Change pp. 63 - 81
  • C.G.C. Van Baak, W. Krijgsman(2016): A greigite-based magnetostratigraphic time frame for the Late Miocene to Recent DSDP Leg 42B cores from the Black Sea Fontiers in Earth Sciences pp. 1 - 18
  • A. van der Boon, W. Krijgsman, L. Cotton(2016): Integrated stratigraphy of the Priabonian (upper Eocene) Urtsadzor section, Armenia Newsletters on Stratigraphy pp. 1 - 27
  • C.G.C. van Baak, W. Krijgsman(2016): Objective utilization of data from DSDP Site 380 (Black Sea) Terra Nova pp. 230 - 231
  • M. Stoica(2016): Paratethyan ostracods in the Spanish Lago-Mare: more evidence for interbasinal exchange at high Mediterranean sea level Palaeogeogr. Palaeoclimatol. Palaeoecol. pp. 854 - 870
  • W. Krijgsman, A. Marzocchi(2016): Mediterranean outflow pump; an alternative mechanism for the Lago-mare and the end of the Messinian Salinity Crisis Geology pp. 523 - 526
  • K. Sant(2017): Changing seas in the Early-Middle Miocene of Central Europe: a Mediterranean approach to Paratethyan stratigraphy Terra Nova pp. 273 - 281
  • K. Sant(2017): Late Burdigalian sea retreat from the North Alpine Foreland Basin: new magnetostratigraphic age constraints Global Planetary Change pp. 38 - 50
  • C.G.C. Van Baak(2017): Paratethys response to the Messinian Salinity Crisis Earth Science Reviews pp. 193 - 223
  • S. Liu(2017): Early diagenetic greigite as an indicator of paleosalinity changes in the middle Miocene Paratethys sea of central Europe Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. pp. 2634 - 2645


Project number


Main applicant

Prof. dr. W. Krijgsman

Affiliated with

Universiteit Utrecht, Faculteit Geowetenschappen, Departement Aardwetenschappen

Team members

C.G.C. van Baak, Drs. A. van der Boon, Dr. W Capella, Dr. L. Chang, Dr. L.V. de Groot, Drs. A. Grothe, Drs. A. Grothe, N.A. Kelder, Prof. dr. W. Krijgsman, Drs. S. Liu, Ir. D.V. Palcu, Drs. K. Sant, Dr. D. Simon


01/09/2011 to 30/06/2017