Page last updated at 18:05 GMT, Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Ancient Mediterranean flood mystery solved

By Victoria Gill
Science reporter, BBC News

Gibraltar strait
The team made a reconstruction of the Mediterranean during the "megaflood"

Research has revealed details of the catastrophic Zanclean flood that refilled the Mediterranean Sea more than five million years ago.

The flood occurred when Atlantic waters found their way into the cut-off and desiccated Mediterranean basin.

The researchers say that a 200km channel across the Gibraltar strait was carved out by the floodwaters.

Their findings, published in Nature, show that the resulting flood could have filled the basin within two years.

The team was led by Daniel Garcia-Castellanos from the Research Council of Spain (CSIC).

He explained that he and his colleagues laid the foundations for this study by working on tectonic lakes.

This... may have involved peak rates of sea level rise in the Mediterranean of more than 10m per day
Daniel Garcia-Castellanos
Research Council of Spain