‘Lost Continent’ Detected Under Indian Ocean

Fragments of an ancient continent are buried under the Indian Ocean, a new study suggests.

Researchers believe the Seychelles may be a surviving fragment of the lost continent. Photo: Idee Per Viaggire/Flickr

Scientists have found evidence for a landmass that would have existed between 2,000 and 85 million years ago.

The found land, which researchers have already called Mauritia, eventually fragmented and vanished as the modern world started to take shape, BBC reports.

About 750 million years ago, the Earth’s landmass was all gathered in a huge single continent called Rodinia.

And despite they are now separated by ocean, India was once situated next to Madagascar.

So, now scientists hope that they have found evidence of a sliver of continent – also known as a microcontinent – that once lied between the two.

The researchers came to this conclusion after they have thoroughly studied grains of sand from the beaches of Mauritius.

They found out that those grains can be dated back to a volcanic eruption that took place about nine million years ago, as they contained minerals that were much older.

Professor Trond Torsvik, from the University of Oslo, Norway, 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.”

“There’s no obvious local source for these zircons,” added Conall Mac Niocaill, a geologist at the University of Oxford, UK, who was not involved in the research.

Also, it does not seem as if the zircons rode to Mauritius on the wind, suggests Robert Duncan, a marine geologist at Oregon State University in Corvallis.

“There’s a remote possibility that they were wind blown, but they’re probably too large to have done so,” he adds.

The zircon dates back to between 1,970 and 600 million years ago, and the researchers supposed that they were remnants of ancient land that had reached the surface of the island during a volcanic eruption.

Mr Torsvik revealed that he believed pieces of the found land could be also notices about 10km down beneath Mauritius and under a swathe of the Indian Ocean.

It would have spanned millions of years, from the Precambrian Era when land was barren and the life came to end to the age when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

However, about 85m years ago, as India started to separate from Madagascar moving towards its current location, the microcontinent would have broken up, eventually disappearing beneath the floor of the Indian Ocean.

However, a small part could have survived.

“At the moment the Seychelles is a piece of granite, or continental crust, which is sitting practically in the middle of the Indian Ocean,” explained Mr Torsvik.

“But once upon a time, it was sitting north of Madagascar. And what we are saying is that maybe this was much bigger, and there are many of these continental fragments that are spread around in the ocean.”

The professor went on, adding that further research is needed to fully investigate what remains of this lost region.

He explained: “We need seismic data which can image the structure… this would be the ultimate proof. Or you can drill deep, but that would cost a lot of money.”

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