26 Feb 2013

Fragments of lost continent found

9:09 am on 26 February 2013

A new scientific study suggests fragments of an ancient continent are buried beneath the floor of the Indian Ocean.

Researchers have found evidence for a landmass that would have existed between 2000 and 85 million years ago.

The strip of land, which scientists have called Mauritia, eventually broke up and vanished beneath the waves as the modern world started to take shape.

The study, published in the Nature Geoscience journal, suggests a microcontinent once existed between India and Madagascar.

The team came to this conclusion after studying grains of sand from the beaches of Mauritius. While the grains dated back to a volcanic eruption that happened about nine million years ago, they contained minerals that were much older.

"At the moment the Seychelles is a piece of granite, or continental crust, which is sitting practically in the middle of the Indian Ocean," said Professor Trond Torsvik from the University of Oslo, Norway.

"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."

Further research is needed to fully investigate what remains of this lost region.

"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," said Professor Torsvik.

The BBC reports until about 750 million years ago, the Earth's landmass was in a vast single continent called Rodinia.