Lost Continent Discovered Under The Island Of Mauritius

Posted: Jan 31 2017, 11:28pm CST | by , Updated: Jan 31 2017, 11:54pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

Lost Continent Discovered Underneath the Island of Mauritius
A large zircon crystal appears as the brightly coloured grain just right of centre. Credit: Wits University

The continent would have once part of supercontinent of Gondwana that split up around 200 million years ago

Scientists have discovered the evidence of a ‘lost continent’ deep under the Indian Ocean.

The piece of crust, named Mauritia, was once part of the supercontinent of Gondwana that broke up around 200 million years ago and eventually split up into what are now the continents of Africa, South America, Australia, Antarctica and India. Until now, the proposed continent remained hidden because of the lava erupted from volcanoes on the East African island of Mauritius.

Researchers have long suspected that some parts of the Indian Ocean have stronger gravitational fields than others, indicating thicker crusts. When they studied the mineral, zircon, found in rocks spewed up by lava, they realized that those remnants were far too old than the island of Mauritius.

Researchers suggest that the long-lost continent was likely connecting Madagascar and India during Gondwana supercontinent, but sepereated from them millionso of years ago and disappeared into the Indian Ocean.

“Earth is made up of two parts - continents, which are old, and oceans, which are "young". On the continents you find 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," said lead author Lewis Ashwal, a professor at Wits University. "Mauritius is an island, and there is no rock older than 9 million years old on the island. However, by studying the rocks on the island, we have found zircons that are as old as 3 billion years.”

"The fact that we have found zircons of this age proves that there are much older crustal materials under Mauritius that could only have originated from a continent.”

Zircons are tiny minerals that bear the traces of compositional properties of a land. Since these fragments can survive extreme conditions and pressures for millions of years, they can provide the record of geological processes with extreme accuracy.

By studying zircons, researches can also better understand the geological history of our planet.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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