Did Adria rotate relative to Africa?
Abstract. The first and foremost boundary condition for kinematic reconstructions of the Mediterranean region is the relative motion between Africa and Eurasia, constrained through reconstructions of the Atlantic Ocean. The Adria continental block is in a downgoing plate position relative to the strongly curved central Mediterranean subduction-related orogens, and forms the foreland of the Apennines, Alps, Dinarides, and Albanides–Hellenides. It is connected to the African plate through the Ionian Basin, likely with Lower Mesozoic oceanic lithosphere. If the relative motion of Adria versus Africa is known, its position relative to Eurasia can be constrained through a plate circuit, thus allowing robust boundary conditions for the reconstruction of the complex kinematic history of the Mediterranean region. Based on kinematic reconstructions for the Neogene motion of Adria versus Africa, as interpreted from the Alps and from Ionian Basin and its surrounding areas, it has been suggested that Adria underwent counterclockwise (ccw) vertical axis rotations ranging from ~ 0 to 20°. Here, we provide six new paleomagnetic poles from Adria, derived from the Lower Cretaceous to Upper Miocene carbonatic units of the Apulian peninsula (southern Italy). These, in combination with published poles from the Po Plain (Italy), the Istrian peninsula (Croatia), and the Gargano promontory (Italy), document a post-Eocene 9.8 ± 9.5° counterclockwise vertical axis rotation of Adria. Our results do not show evidence of significant Africa–Adria rotation between the Early Cretaceous and Eocene. Models based on reconstructions of the Alps, invoking 17° ccw rotation, and based on the Ionian Basin, invoking 2° ccw rotation, are both permitted within the documented rotation range, yet are mutually exclusive. This apparent enigma could possibly be solved only if one or more of the following conditions are satisfied: (i) Neogene shortening in the western Alps has been significantly underestimated (by as much as 150 km); (ii) Neogene extension in the Ionian Basin has been significantly underestimated (by as much as 420 km); and/or (iii) a major sinistral strike-slip zone has decoupled northern and southern Adria in Neogene time. Here we present five alternative reconstructions of Adria at 20 Ma, highlighting the kinematic uncertainties, and satisfying the inferred rotation pattern from this study and/or from previously proposed kinematic reconstructions.