Scientists recently discovered the existence of a “lost continent” under Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.
The continent is reportedly a leftover piece from the ancient supercontinent Gondwana, which broke apart about 200 million years ago, leading to the creation of landmasses that are recognised today as South America, Africa, Antarctica, Australia, the Arabian peninsula and the Indian subcontinent.
• The lost continent seems to be a tiny part of the ancient continent that broke off from the island of Madagascar when the other parts broke off and formed the Indian Ocean.
• The piece got subsequently covered by young lava during volcanic eruptions.
• This discovery was made by Professor Lewis Ashwal from the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa along with his colleagues while studying the breakup process of the continents to develop a better understanding of the geological history of the planet.
• While studying the mineral zircon, which is generally found in rocks thrown up by lava during volcanic eruptions, the researchers found that the remnants of this mineral date back to almost three billion years, which is too old to belong to Mauritius, as the island has no rock older than nine million years old.
Lewis Ashwal explained the findings by saying that continents are old and so, rocks over four billion years old can be found on them but oceans and islands, on the other hand, are young and so only new rocks are formed there.
• Zircons are minerals that are generally found in granites from the continents.
• They contain traces of uranium, lead and thorium.
• They survive geological process very well and so, comprise a rich record of geological processes and can be dated accurately.
Furthermore, this is not the first instance when zircons older than three billion years have been found on the island. According to a study conducted in 2013, some traces of the mineral were found in island’s beach sand.