Under the sea lies a lost land of terrestrial life.  On this submerged landscape in the North Atlantic Ocean, river channels and fossils of pollen and coal are now being covered up by the remains of sea creatures.  Live Science compared it to the lost continent of Atlantis.  How did this fossil terrestrial landscape rise above the water, only to sink again?

The story on Live Science described how researchers used sonar to map this underwater country.  “It looks for all the world like a map of a bit of a country onshore,” said Nicky White, the senior researcher reporting the discovery, describing the 4000-square-mile landscape.  “It is like an ancient fossil landscape preserved 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) beneath the seabed.”  The research team believes it rose above the sea, then sank down, leaving its formerly above-water features discernible.  Core samples reveal marine fossils overlain by sub-aerial evidence, like pollen, overlain by marine fossils.  They believe other such submerged landscapes may exist.  In fact, two smaller ones, “more recent, but less spectacular,” were subsequently found.

The article claimed this lost country is 56 million years old.  The team was surprised to interpolate, according to their evolutionary timeline, that it must have risen up and sunk down within 2.5 million years.  White pondered the “burning question” of how such a process could happen so quickly.  “From a geological perspective, that is a very short period of time,” he said.  The authors of a paper about it in Nature Geosciencespeculated that a mantle plume lifted up the land and then set it back down after it passed.  Maybe it was one of a series of such land-lifting ripples, they speculated….

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