During the younger Tertiary period, a sea extended across Europe to the Black and Caspian Seas, forming the Eastern Paratethys. This sea connected with the Indian Ocean near Iran, along with the Mediterranean Sea, providing a crucial link between the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic. The flow of warm water in subtropical to equatorial regions maintained relatively high air temperatures over the continent.
While scientists have thoroughly analyzed available data on this sea in Central and Western Europe, the situation is different in Eastern Europe, including Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, and Kazakhstan. Therefore, any samples from this area are highly sought after, with the focus of research primarily on the Crimean region’s profiles, known as type profiles, that are essential for paleontologists.
In the late 1980s, Professor Katarína Holcová had the opportunity to examine the type site, but Soviet colleagues did not permit them to take samples. After the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Russian scientists started to intensively work in the area.
In 2017, Yuliia Vernyhorova from Kyiv, who works in paleontology and stratigraphy at the Institute of Geological Sciences of National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, contacted Professor Holcová. Until 2014, Yuliia focused on studying the Neogene of the Kerch Peninsula and provided scientific support for the geological survey of the Kerch Peninsula and the eastern part of the Crimean Peninsula. She had also taken samples from the Crimean profile before 2014.
Yuliia understood the importance of her scientific experiences and the materials obtained from the area. The situation surrounding the research of the Crimean profiles troubled her deeply. In 2018, she brought back valuable material to Charles University Prague and subsequently to Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich. The samples were small, but Professor Holcová and colleagues decided to extract as much data as possible from them. Professor Holcová described Yuliia’s delivery of the samples with sacred reverence.
The samples brought by Yuliia Vernyhorova from the Crimean region were processed by scientists from the Faculty of Science of Charles University using advanced geochemical techniques and micropaleontology. Additionally, Prof. Dr. Bettina Reichenbacher from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich analyzed statoacoustic structures from fish inner ears (otoliths) to determine what the water column of the younger Tertiary sea looked like. Nela Doláková from Masaryk University processed pollen samples from the sediment to reconstruct the landscape on land and determine temperatures, precipitation, and other factors.
While the material Yuliia brought had geopolitical importance, it was also scientifically interesting. The study provides the first reconstruction of the landscape in the Crimean region during the younger Tertiary period. The results show that there were already steppes in the area 14 million years ago, which was unexpected. It was also found that the Crimean region was not as crucial for communication between the Indian and Atlantic Oceans as previously thought, as it was likely a bay.
However, the study also revealed limitations in accessing important sediments for research due to political reasons. Professor Holcová emphasizes the value of the samples they were able to analyze, as they touch on the pain of humanity and provide insight into the history of our planet.
The article discusses a scientific study conducted by a team of researchers from various institutions, including Charles University and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. The study aimed to reconstruct the landscape and climate of the Crimean region during the younger Tertiary period, using micropaleontology and advanced geochemical methods.
One of the co-authors, Yuliia Vernyhorova, brought valuable material for the study from Ukraine. Despite the ongoing conflict in the country, Vernyhorova worked hard on the article and provided a crucial contribution to the research.
The study’s results were unexpected, revealing the existence of steppe vegetation in the region fourteen million years ago, and the absence of direct communication between the Indian and Atlantic Oceans through the Crimean region.
The article highlights Vernyhorova’s dedication to the research and her commitment to helping her country during the ongoing conflict. She and her husband have been actively involved in humanitarian efforts and continue to assist those affected by the Russian invasion.
Despite the difficult circumstances surrounding the study’s creation, the editorial board of the journal granted open access to the article, and the co-authors commend Vernyhorova’s bravery and determination. The study is published in the journal Marine Micropaleontology.