EUROPE could be moving beneath Africa as the two continents shift closer together, scientists believe.
Geologists say a pause in the movement between the two continents could mean the tectonic plates are about to change direction, in what has been described as a 'scientifically fascinating development.
The northern edge of the African tectonic plate has descended under Europe for millions of years but recently this process halted, it has been reported.
Scientists, discussing the issue at the European Geosciences Union (EGU) meeting last week, said they thought Europe could be about to move under Africa.
According to the BBC, this new development could herald the beginning of a rare - and scientifically fascinating - event of a new subduction zone.
The dense rock at the far north of the African tectonic plate, beneath the Mediterranean Sea, has practically sunk under the Eurasian plate, on which Europe sits.
However, with a landmass that is too light, scientists do not believe Africa will descend any further.
Rinus Wortel, from the University of Utrecht, told BBC News: 'Africa wont sink, but Africa and Europe continue to move together; so where is this taken up? 'It looks possible that on the appropriate timescale, we are witnessing the beginning of subduction of Europe under Africa.
The Utrecht groups analysis of the Mediterranean Seas complex geological structure and history reveals that the continents slow convergence of a few centimetres each year was partially obstructed by the collision of two plates further east, in Turkey.
And further subduction was prevented by the lightness of the African continent.
Parts of the African plate that did subduct broke away and are now descending towards the Earths mantle.
Parts of the Eurasian plate have been pulled southwards across the Mediterranean to fill this gap - such as the Balearic Islands, Corsica and Sardinia.
The same thing is also happening with Crete.
Daily Mail

This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 14-Apr-2011 here.