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Indian Ocean Harbors Lost Continent “Mauritia”

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New research suggests that a continent is hiding beneath the floor of the Indian Ocean.

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An international team of researchers has discovered an ancient microcontinent, that once was tucked in between southern India and Madagascar and is now believed to hide about 10 kilometers beneath the island Mauritius.

The scientists were investigating grains of sand from the beaches of Mauritius when they discovered zircon. According to study leader Trond Torsvik, from the University of Oslo, these are minerals you typically find in continental crust. “They are very old in age.”

The team found out that the zircon is much older than Mauritius, which exists about 65 million years. They believe that the minerals originate from pieces of ancient land that had been dragged up to the surface of the volcanic island during an eruption. The microcontinent has been named “Mauritia.”

Below you see a map of Rodinia, a supercontinent which contained most of Earth’s landmass, during its break-up 750 million years ago. It is thought that India, Mauritia and Madagascar stayed connected until about 85 million years ago. When India started moving to its current location, Mauritia eventually broke down and dissappeared between the waves of the Indian Ocean.

rodinia
Source: BBC, Science World Report, Volkskrant
Photo: Hansueli Krapf/Wikimedia Commons

Torsvik, T., Amundsen, H., Hartz, E., Corfu, F., Kusznir, N., Gaina, C., Doubrovine, P., Steinberger, B., Ashwal, L., & Jamtveit, B. (2013). A Precambrian microcontinent in the Indian Ocean Nature Geoscience DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1736

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