Researchers have discovered evidence of an ancient “lost continent” hidden deep underneath the Indian Ocean and the island of Mauritius.
The continent is believed to be a remnant of the supercontinent Gondwana which existed some 200 million years ago.
By studying the minerals on the island Mauritius they found that something was amiss with its age.
“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,” explains Professor Lewis Ashwal, lead author on the paper.
“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.”
Zircons are minerals which survive mostly in the type of granite that you find in continents. They’re incredibly durable which makes them perfect for taking precise dating.
This means that Mauritius has, buried deep beneath it, the remains of a previously undiscovered continent that split from Gondwana.
In fact the only reason that Mauritius exists is due to volcanic eruptions that took place just nine million years ago.
Gondwanaland is a super-continent that existed more than 200 million years ago and contained rocks as old as 3.6 billion years old, before it split up into what are now the continents of Africa, South America, Antarctica, India and Australia. The split-up occurred because of the geological process of plate tectonics. This is the process where the ocean basin is in continuous motion, and moves between 2 cm and 11 cm per year. Continents ride on the plates that make up the ocean floor, which causes the movement of the continents.