Deep down in the Indian Ocean, a research team led by the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa says they have found parts of an ancient continent.
The lava-covered remains of the continent, dubbed “Mauritia”, were found beneath Mauritius.
According to the report published this week in Nature Communications, the remnants of crust are a remnant of the breakup of Gondwana, a supercontinent that existed over 200 million years ago.
Gondwana, which contained rocks up to 3.6 billion years old, was divided into what are now Africa, South America, Antarctica, India and Australia.
Professor Lewis Ashwal, lead author of the article, says there are a number of parts of the “undiscovered continent” of various sizes, spread across the Indian Ocean after the rupture.
The rupture did not involve a simple division of the ancient Gondwana supercontinent, according to Professor Ashwal, but instead a complex chipping away occurred with fragments of continental crust of varying sizes drifting into the evolving Indian Ocean basin” .
The team made the discovery by analyzing a mineral, zirconia, found in rocks tossed during volcanic eruptions.
The researchers said the mineral remains were too old to belong to Mauritius, since it is an island and there are no rocks over 9 million years on it. However, by studying the rocks in the island, they found 3,000 million years old zirconia.
These results corroborate a study carried out in 2013, which found traces of ancient zircons in the beach sand. But critics at the time said the ore could have been swept away by the wind, or even transported by scientists.
Ashwal says that the fact that the team found such ancient rock in the rock refutes any suggestion that they have been carried by the wind. The researchers state their results undoubtedly demonstrate the existence of the former continental crust below Mauritius.