cover image Vanished Ocean: How Tethys Reshaped the World

Vanished Ocean: How Tethys Reshaped the World

Dorrik Stow, Oxford Univ., $29.95 (298p) ISBN 978-0-19-957859-7

Stow, a U.K. geologist and oceanographer, has for decades been gathering evidence from around the world to show what the earth looked like 260 million years ago when the continents had fused into one supercontinent, which scientists call Pangaea, with an enormous C-shaped ocean—now lost—named Tethys (after the Greek sea goddess). Destroyed only five and a half million years ago by the movement of continents, Tethys straddled the equator and formed Pangaea's eastern shore. Tethys was responsible for laying down many of our current oil deposits, not only in the Mideast but also off West Africa and eastern South America. Stow links the two most famous widespread extinctions to Tethys, claiming that the massive Permian extinction was caused in large part by Pangaea fusing together, accompanied by a dramatic fall in sea levels. Stow is not impressed by the widely accepted theory that an asteroid killed off the dinosaurs; he maintains that gradual changes in Tethys and other oceans at the time played an important role. Stow's level of geological detail will allow hard-core science buffs to get into his re-creation of a lost world. 15 maps and line drawings. (Aug.)