Ancient 'Microcontinent' Buried Under Indian Ocean? Scientists Find Likely Continent Fragment
By Roxanne Palmer | February 26, 2013 7:50 AM EST
Scientists think they’ve discovered a long-lost continental fragment – and no, it’s not Atlantis.
An international team of scientists led by geologists from the University of Oslo was analyzing volcanic material on the beaches of Mauritius, when they found something interesting. While most of the sand at the beach dated back to a volcanic eruption nine million years ago, the sand also contained other material that was much older.
"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," lead author Trond Torsvik told the BBC.
The zircon Torsvik and his colleagues found were between nearly 2 billion and 660 million years old. The scientists thought this material could be debris from an ancient continent hidden beneath Mauritius and the Indian Ocean. Lava from the volcanic eruption nine million years ago would have brought the ancient fragments bubbling up to the surface.
In a paper published in the journal Nature Geoscience on Sunday, the scientists made their case, pointing to evidence showing that Mauritius sits on an anomalously thick crust of rock.
The tiny continent fragment, which the team has dubbed Mauritia, likely broke off and fractured into a ribbon-like structure somewhere between around 83 and 61 million years ago, as Madagascar and India drifted apart. Mauritia may have been a dry piece of land for millions of years, stretching past even the time of the dinosaurs back to the Precambrian era, when life was likely absent from land. And now it lies buried.
Torsvik and his colleagues think Mauritia may be buried 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) down below Mauritius and the Indian Ocean in an arc that swoops northeast to the Seychelles, an island nation that spans an archipelago of 115 separate islands.
Could scientists find definitive proof that Mauritia exists?
"We need seismic data which can image the structure... this would be the ultimate proof,” Torsvik told the BBC. “Or you can drill deep, but that would cost a lot of money."
Torsvik and his colleagues say that if their theory pans out, there could be a lot more microcontinents hidden deep beneath the ocean.
Some continental fragments manage to stay above water, though. Zealandia, which contains New Zealand, New Caledonia and several small islands, broke off from Australia sometime between 85 and 130 million years ago. Cuba, Jamaica, and some other Caribbean islands are also considered microcontinents.
SOURCE: Torsvik et al. “A Precambrian microcontinent in the Indian Ocean.” Nature Geoscience published online 24 February 2013.
To contact the editor, e-mail:
Most Popular Slideshows
- Kristen Stewart Moving On With Nicholas Hoult, Jennifer Lawrence Dating Chris Martin – Reports [PHOTOS]
- Chris Martin Dating Reports: Jennifer Lawrence Vs Gwyneth Paltrow [PHOTOS]
- Kate Middleton Suffocated in Kensington Palace, Queen Elizabeth Reported War With The Duchess [PHOTOS]
- 2014 MTV Video Music Awards: Everything To Know [PHOTOS]
Join the Conversation
- Alien Base Found on Moon: UFO Enthusiasts Celebrate [Watch Video]
- Regular Sexual Intercourse Can Ward Off Erection Problems, Say Researchers
- Alien Mystery Solved: NASA Reveals the Truth About the Strange Figure Recorded on the Moon (Watch Video)
- Real Life Mermaid Swims in Paris: Viewers Amazed (Watch Video)
- Climate Change Has Given Birth to New Hybrid Species: Transformation Before Man's Eyes
- Saudi Arabia: Brothers Beheaded For Smuggling Marijuana Into The Kingdom
- ISIS: More Journalists Beheading To Come After James Foley and Steven Sotloff [Video]
- Moto X+1 is Likely Nexus 6 Template; Motorola Shamu is 1st Android Silver with Snapdragon 810 – Reports
- ISIS Posts Graphic Beheading Video of US Journalist James Foley
- James Foley’s Executioner Has British Accent—A Chilling Reminder That ISIS Has Foreign Members
- Nexus 6 Release Date Dilemma with Motorola Shamu Details Pointing to Better Smartphone and Killer Features
- iPhone 6 Release Date Remains On Course for Sept-Oct 2014 as Apple Delays iWatch Debut to 2015