Scientists have found a “lost continent” beneath the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.
The island was formed from lava emitted by volcanoes through the past 9 million years. However, scientists recently found a mineral that was over billions of years old in rocks originate in the well-known tourist destination.
A team of geologists, who were led by South Africa’s University of Witwatersrand, conducted deeper investigation into the matter. They determined that the island was actually sitting on top of an uncharted part of the 200-million-year-old “super-continent” Gondwana. Gondwana separated to form Africa, South America, Antarctica, India and Australia around 180 million years ago.
Furthermore, the other supercontinent, northern of Gondwana was Laurasia. The two supercontinents combined shortly in order to create Pangaea before breaking up into the continents we are familiar with today.
Ergo, Gondwana broke apart and thus became Australia, Antarctica, South America, Africa, and the Indian portion of Asia, including smaller islands in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.
Scientists have composed new indications to paint a very different picture. According to CNN and various other sources, new evidence has been accumulated by the German Research Centre for Geosciences Wisz University scientists that shows the existence of another continent in the Indian Ocean, which, unfortunately, mainly sank beneath the waves.
Professor Lewis Ashwal, also the lead author of the paper, led the research. He stated that there are numerous pieces of “undiscovered continent” of countless sizes spread over the Indian Ocean, left by the split.
“This breakup did not involve a simple splitting of the ancient super-continent of Gondwana,” says Ashwal, but “a complex splintering took place with fragments of continental crust of variable sizes left adrift within the evolving Indian Ocean basin.”
Ashwal stated, “We are studying the break-up process of the continents, in order to understand the geological history of the planet,” says Wits geologist, Professor Lewis Ashwal, lead author on the paper “Archaean zircons in Miocene oceanic hotspot rocks establish ancient continental crust beneath Mauritius”, published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications. (University of the Witwatersrand)
The team made the discovery by analyzing a mineral — zircon — found in rocks spewed up by lava during volcanic eruptions.
The researchers that were involved in the discovery gathered samples of the mineral zircon, which by definition is a mineral that can be used as a collective accessory to trace mineral constituents of most felsic and granite igneous rocks.
Because of its toughness, hardness, and chemical inertness, zircon endures in grainy deposits and is a known component of most sands.
These samples had been collected from an island, off the coast of Madagascar called Mauritius. Despite the fact that Mauritius is no older than 9 million years, the researchers concluded this to be odd, since the samples were believed to be over 3 billion years old.
“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 Ashwal. “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.”
Ergo, the scientists found out that the samples were in fact a part of Gondwana, which no longer exists. They names the newfound, ‘lost’ continent Mauritia, and believe that more pieces can be found as remains from the continent around the other islands nearby.
“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,” says Ashwal.
When we think about, the discovery of the zircons and parts of Gondwana merely changes the way scientists believe Gondwana broke apart into the continents we know today.
Instead of the familiar breaking up of the supercontinent, the very existence of Mauritia goes to show that Gondwana endured a much more ferocious splitting, with many smaller pieces of the landmass left floating, and later sinking into the Indian Ocean. This goes to show that the harder you look, the more you will find.