Many continents have been lost throughout the history of planet Earth. For instance, when the Himalayas were formed, about 40 million years ago, an entire continent disappeared. Today, this continent is coming out as lava from different volcanoes around the world.
Before this, another continent, located between India and Madagascar, disappeared due to unknown circumstances. But, research conducted by the University of New South Wales has located the remains of this lost continent.
The researchers found that 85 million years ago the island of Mauritius, or, at least, its location, was a small continent – Mauritia, which was a quarter of the size of Madagascar. At the time, this small continent was positioned between India and Madagascar, the two land masses being a lot closer than they are today. However, the two land masses started drifting apart, which caused Mauritia – stuck to the same underlying plate, to be torn to pieces and sink into the sea for good.
Interestingly, the present day island of Mauritius isn’t a part of this pre-historic micro-continent. It formed 10 to 7 million years ago as a volcano as part of the Mascarane Islands. Fueled by an underlying superheated plume of upwelling mantle material known as a “hotspot”, this volcano, which no longer exists, managed to sprout up through the wreckage of the ruins of Mauritia and form Mauritius. This only happened once enough magma melt had been generated within the crust by this hotspot.
The study was published in the journal Nature Communications, where the team of researchers explained that they came to this conclusion by looking at the zircon crystals, which are very tough gems forming under extremely high pressures, on the beaches of Mauritius, brought to the surface through volcanic eruptions.
The team found that these gems are almost 3 billion years old, meaning they must have derived from a long-lost continent that used to be there, but was destroyed for good. Over time, part of this continent was melted by the hotspot and took part in Mauritius’ volcanic activity.
But, the first clue the researchers had came from gravitational surveys which revealed that the gravitation force on the crust around Mauritius was stronger than other regions of the Indian Ocean.