Lost Continent Crust Found in Mauritius

Scientists say they have discovered a 3 billion year piece of crust in the Indian Ocean under the island of Mauritius which may be a part of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana. However, after the researchers performed a study on the rocks of the island they found zircons that were 3 billion years old.

Researchers have discovered evidence for this continent hiding underneath through crystals carried in volcanic lava.

Now that we have similar crystals that were buried by ancient lava deposits, scientists can make a much stronger case for them being the remains of a lost continent. "On the continents you find the 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", noted Ashwal.

However, 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 rest of the continent probably sank beneath the sea 84 million years ago.

The discovery of the crust created quite a ripple and is believed to be the part of the ancient continent that broke off during the formation of the Indian Ocean.

Zircons are minerals that occur mainly in granites from the continents. Because of that resiliency, zircons make the flawless substance for studying ancient continents, but researchers didn't expect to find zircons this old on an island that's so young.

"We are studying the breakup process of the continents, in order to understand the geological history of the planet", said Prof.

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"It's like plasticine: when continents are stretched they become thinner and split apart", says Martin Van Kranendonk at the University of New South Wales in Australia.

"Earth is made up of two parts: continents, which are old, and oceans, which are young", said Wits University's Prof Lewis Ashwal, author of the paper.

Furthermore, he and his colleagues reported that the findings suggest that the break of up the supercontinent Gondwana (also known as Gondwanaland) was a complex process which left a number of various splintered fragments spread throughout the Indian Ocean.

'Mauritius and other Mauritian continental fragments are dominantly underlain by Archaean continental crust, and that these originally formed part of the ancient nucleus of Madagascar and India'.

The new zircon samples were derived from rock, 6-million-year-old trachyte.

The study appeared in the peer-reviewed British journal Nature Communications.

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