The lost continent of Atlantis may be a myth long pursued by many adventure-seekers, but scientists have found something similar – and it’s real.
An ancient “lost continent” has recently been uncovered under the island country of Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean. Geologists have named it “Mauritia,” and it now forms part of Madagascar and India, USA Today reports. The rest of the continent most likely sank to the bottom of the ocean some 84 million years ago.
Lewis Ashwal, lead author on the study from the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, said,
We are studying the break-up process of the continents, in order to understand the geological history of the planet.
The continent was most probably a piece of the giant supercontinent Gondwana, which existed over 200 million years ago, and eventually broke apart to form present-day Antarctica, Africa, Australia and South America.
What tipped scientists off was finding an ancient mineral on Mauritius that should not have been there, geologically speaking. They found zircon, which is present in rocks thrown by lava during violent volcanic eruptions. Remnants of the mineral were much too old to belong to Mauritius.
Ashwal explained, “Earth is made up of two parts — continents, which are old, and oceans, which are ‘young.’” On land formations, rocks can be up to billions of years old, which is not the same for the oceans.
Mauritius is a few million years old, for example, but the zircon traces were estimated to be three billion years old. Ashwal said, “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.”
The study added that there might be more pieces of Mauritia spread over the Indian Ocean. Details of the find were published in the journal Nature Communications.