Fragments of an ancient continent that possibly existed between 2,000 and 85 million years ago appear to be buried beneath the floor of the Indian Ocean, according to a research report published in the journal Nature Geoscience and reported by the BBC.
The so-called microcontinent, dubbed Mauritia by scientists, is believed to have been a sliver of land between what are today India and Mauritius. Although a significant distance separates the two lands today, they once existed next to each other.
The hypothesis of Mauritius' existence grew from the study of sand on Mauritius beaches. The actual grains of sand appear to have come from a volcanic eruption some nine million years ago, but researchers detected minerals in the mix that predated the eruption.
Prof. Trond Torsvik, from the University of Oslo, said: "We found zircons that we extracted from the beach sands, and these are something you typically find in a continental crust. They are very old in age."
Dated to between 1,970 and 600 million years ago, the zircon is believed to be remnants of an ancient land that were brought to the earth's surface during a volcanic eruption.
Researchers still need further proof to be able to conclude definitively that Mauritia actually existed. "We need seismic data which can image the structure," Torsvik said. "This would be the ultimate proof."
Torsvik said that he believed pieces of Mauritia could be found about 10 km down beneath Mauritius and under a swathe of the Indian Ocean.
According to Torsvik, the microcontinent likely fragmented about 85 million years ago as India drifted away from Madagascar. It was then lost beneath the gathering waves.
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