Geological and geomorphological investigations along the E Cretan coast allow us to set up a model for the genesis of a staircase-morphology formed by a series of wave-cut platforms. Field observations indicate that the early Pliocene period was characterized by stepwise subsidence. The area stabilized in the middle Pliocene and subsequently underwent Quaternary uplift. The character of late Cenozoic sedimentation is closely related to this Plio-Quaternary inversion of vertical movements.
The discovery in early Pliocene mark of the psychrospheric ostracod Agrenocythere pliocenica, which was known before almost exclusively from the western Mediterranean, shows that deep marine circulation extended as far as the Levantine basin during this period. In addition, it substantiates the postulated relatively deep marine depositional environment in eastern Crete during the early Pliocene, as opposed to continental-shallow marine late Messinian conditions.
Reversal of vertical movements around the Pliocene-Quaternary boundary is not only found on eastern Crete. Data from other Cretan districts and adjacent islands support the proposed model, which therefore appears to be significant for the S Hellenic arc. Its timing is concurrent with an important geodynamical revolution in the Aegean region.