Mauritia 'Lost Continent': Crust From Ancient Undiscovered Landmass Found On Mauritius
Rocks over four billion years old were also found on the continents.
Scientists realized Mauritius' continental origins while studying bits of the mineral zircon found on the island.
Scientists say they have discovered a 3 billion year piece of crust in the Indian Ocean under the island of Mauritius which may be a part of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana.
The continent would have been 932 miles across and would have linked Madagascar and India together.
"According to the new results‚ this break-up did not involve a simple splitting of the ancient super-continent of Gondwana‚ but rather‚ a complex splintering took place with fragments of continental crust of variable sizes left adrift within the evolving Indian Ocean basin‚" Ashwal added.
The crystals were exposed when volcanic lava brought them to the surface. This started out about 200 million years ago.
According to an worldwide team of scientists, Mauritius is a continental fragment, severed from Madagascar as the the supercontinent, Gondwana, split into Africa, India, Australia and Antarctica, some 200 million years ago.
Interestingly, this isn't the first time ancient zircons have been found on Mauritius, which was also the only known home of the extinct dodo bird. Ashwal and colleagues pried the newfound crystals from rocky outcrops on the island, erasing any doubts of the zircons' origins.
Live Science revealed that Ashwal and his colleagues from the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) and Trond Torsvik from the University of Oslo and other agencies studied the mineral and zircon found in rocks spewed up by lava during volcanic eruptions.
But the find was controversial, because critics argued that these minerals could have blown onto the beach from elsewhere.
"The fact that we found the ancient zircons in rock (six-million-year-old trachyte), corroborates the previous study and refutes any suggestion of wind-blown, wave-transported or pumice-rafted zircons for explaining the earlier results", said Prof.
The find now paints a picture of an ancient continent being splintered into fragments, some of which ended up being anchored below the current landmass that makes up the island of Mauritius today.
Researchers have long suspected that some parts of the Indian Ocean have stronger gravitational fields than others, indicating thicker crusts.
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