Fragments of a tiny ancient continent were found hidden under the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. Although India and Madagascar are now separated by thousands of kilometers of ocean, they were once located next to each other, with a micro-continent between them. The slab, which the scientists have named Mauritia, at some point fragmented and disappeared beneath the waters, around 61 to 83 million years ago.


The newest study was published in the journal Nature Geoscience on Sunday, February 24, 2013. The findings revealed what scientists have analyzed as Mauritius’ beach sand, containing  zircons between 660 million and about 2 billion old. The microscopic chips of mineral were an extraordinary find, as they were fairly recent in geological terms. These chips came from volcanic rock that is 9 million years old.

As stated by Nature Geoscience, the zircons explain the existence of fragments of an ancient micro-continent under Mauritius, which were brought onto the surface by recent volcanic activity. The journal also suggests that the Indian Ocean floor may be littered with hidden fragments that broke off, as the once super-continent Pangaea split up 200 million years ago.

Pangaea yielded Laurasia in the north and Gondwana in the south. Gondwana then split into India, Australia, Madagascar Antarctica, between 80 and 130 million years ago. This was when Mauritia detached from the split between Madagascar and India.


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