Fragments that have come from an ancient and lost continent have just been discovered lurking beneath the island of Mauritius. Crystals that were expelled due to volcanic eruptions have been examined, and these crystals were found to be billions of years older than Mauritius. It is currently thought that these fragments once came from a lost microcontinent that was called Mauritia, as Science Alert reported.
Mauritius is found around 1,200 miles away from the southeast coast of Africa and is believed to be a landmass that is fairly new. The island was formed due to volcanic eruptions which occurred underwater around 8 or 9 million years ago.
This proposed microcontinent of Mauritia beneath Mauritius may have once connected India and Madagascar in the Gondwana supercontinent, but most likely disappeared around 84 million years ago in the Indian Ocean.
The University of the Witwatersrand’s Lewis Ashwal has explained that on the island of Mauritus itself, you will not find any rocks that are older than 9 million-years-old. The zircons from the lost continent beneath Mauritus, however, may be up to 3 billion-years-old.
“Earth is made up of two parts – continents, which are old, and oceans, which are young. 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. 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.”
As the crystals that were discovered were made of zircon, this showed researchers that the crystals would not have come from the ocean around Mauritius. Zircons are also generally formed from granites of ancient continents that once covered the Earth’s surface, and as the zircons discovered on Mauritius were between 2 to 3 billion-years-old, researchers believe this most likely points to them having once belonged to the ancient and lost continent of Mauritia.
Zircon has been found on Mauritius before, and in 2013, researchers also discovered zircon mixed in with the beach sand of the island. The zircon there was also found to have been billions of years old. However, when this discovery was made, the research became controversial as it was argued that the minerals may very well have been blown onto the beach sands of Mauritius from somewhere else.
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But now that further zircon has been discovered in lava deposits, scientists can show that it is highly probable that this mineral would have come from a lost continent under Mauritius.
“The fact that we found the ancient zircons in rock corroborates the previous study, and refutes any suggestion of wind-blown, wave-transported, or pumice-rafted zircons for explaining the earlier results.”
These recent findings also may explain why some areas of the Indian Ocean seem to have stronger gravitational fields than other areas of the ocean. This points to the possibility of thicker crusts.
It is believed that further remnants of the supercontinent Gondwana will most likely be discovered as the years go by. Alice Klein noted that besides the zircon discovered on Mauritius, which indicates a lost continent beneath it, there are also other pieces of continent that have been discovered under Iceland and off the coast of Western Australia.
“It’s only now as we explore more of the deep oceans that we’re finding all these bits of ancient continents around the place.”
What do you think of the idea of a lost continent beneath Mauritius and what new discoveries do you think scientists might learn about the supercontinent Gondwana?
[Featured Image by David Cannon/Getty Images]