June 25, 2017

Long-lost continent found submerged deep under Indian Ocean

02 February 2017, 12:47 | Candice Butler

The island of Mauritius, a tropical destination in the Indian Ocean due east of Madagascar, was the hub of a lost continent hundreds of millions of years ago, says new research.

Tiny zircon crystals coughed up by volcanic eruptions on the island of Mauritius are around 2.5 billion to 3 billion years old.

Newly discovered crystals expelled from volcanic eruptions on the island of Mauritius are billions of years older than the island itself, and are thought to be the remnants of an ancient microcontinent known as Mauritia.

The scientists, who published the study in the journal Nature Communications, said there are many pieces of the undiscovered continent, which they call Mauritia, found around the Indian Ocean, from the breakup of Gondwana. "On the continents you find the rocks that are over four billion years old, but you find nothing like that in the oceans, as this is where new rocks are formed", noted Ashwal.

By studying the minerals on the island Mauritius they found that something was amiss with its age.

The researchers do not think this is the only case of an ancient continental crust lying beneath what is now a volcanic island, which means more evidence of hidden continents could still be found.

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This lost continent is believed to be the outcome of the super continent Gondwana breaking up, which is nearly 200 million years old! He said that thei group s studying the break-up process of the continents to trace the geological history of our planet. And the researchers arrived at their conclusion by studying zircons - a mineral found mainly in granites from continents - found in Mauritius.

The first suggestion that a lost continent may exist in the Indian Ocean came as recently as 2013 when researchers found geological evidence that suggested an ancient landmass exists in the area once a part of the ancient super continent of Gondwana. It was a complex splintering process, which also led to some of the continental material floating about in what was then a nascent Indian Ocean, a new study found.

Until about 85 million years ago, Mauritia was a small continent - about a quarter of the size of Madagascar - nestled between India and Madagascar, which were much closer than they are today.

"Earth is made up of two parts - continents, which are old, and oceans, which are "young".

'Mauritius and other Mauritian continental fragments are dominantly underlain by Archaean continental crust, and that these originally formed part of the ancient nucleus of Madagascar and India'.

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