2 years ago
The skeletal remnants of an ancient continent now lie at the bottom of the Indian Ocean, scientists have learned.
Lewis Ashwal and his colleagues at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa first proposed in 2013 that the volcanic island Mauritius was sitting on an old, sunken continent, according to New Scientist. This theory surfaced after stronger gravitational fields were identified in parts of the Indian Ocean, indicating thicker areas of crust.
This theory is now further supported through the team’s latest analyses of zircon crystals found on Mauritius that are up to three billion years old.
“Earth is made up of two parts: continents, which are old, and oceans, which are ‘young,’ Ashwal reportedly said. “Mauritius is an island, and there is no rock older than nine million years old on the island. However, by studying the rocks on the island, we have found zircons that are as old as three billion years.”
Through this ancient rock, the team has reconstructed the geological history of the lost continent, which they have named Mauritia. The researchers believe that up until 85 million years ago, Mauritia was a small continent located between Madagascar and India—which were geographically closer together then than they are today. When the two countries began to move apart, Mauritia began to splinter.
“It’s like plasticine: When continents are stretched they become thinner and split apart,” Martin Van Kranendonk at the University of New South Wales in Australia said. “It’s these thin pieces that sink below the ocean.”
To learn more about the discovery of this and other long-lost continents, click here.