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Mauritia, an Ancient Lost — and Now Found — Continent Hidden Under Lava

Geography lessons have to be revised.

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We may just have to redraw our world map. You see, scientists have discovered a new continent that has been lying hidden under Mauritius, an island nation located in the Indian Ocean, for more than two centuries. The newly-discovered continent is called “Mauritia.”

The long-lost continent was accidentally discovered by a group of researchers from the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa who were originally investigating zircon, a mineral commonly found in Earth’s crust. The team found zircon in the rocks formed from a volcanic eruption in Mauritius but they soon realized that the rocks were too old to have been formed in the said island.

At present, Mauritia lies underneath Mauritius and is covered in lava.

Source:Wikimapia

Lewis Ashwal, a geologist who studies zircon, said:

Mauritius is an island, and there is no rock older than 9 million years old on the island. However, by studying the rocks on the island, we have found zircons that are as old as 3 billion years.

Knowledge of the ages of the rocks in the area prompted the researchers to think outside the box, leading them to formulate the theory that there must be a land mass underneath that spewed the billion-years-old rock.

Further research revealed that the land mass, now called Mauritia, was formed 200 million years ago during the Triassic period. That was the time when the supercontinent Gondwanaland was believed to have broken apart into the continents that we know today: Africa, South America, Australia, and Antarctica. Interestingly, these continents have rocks that are as old as 3.6 billion years.

Gondwanaland broke off into smaller land masses during the Triassic period.
Location of possible continental fragments.

Source:Nature Communication

Ashwal, on the creation of Mauritia, commented that:

This break-up did not involve a simple splitting of the ancient super-continent of Gondwana, but rather, a complex splintering took place with fragments of continental crust of variable sizes left adrift within the evolving Indian Ocean basin.

The long lost continent of Mauritia lies underneath Mauritius.

Interesting, huh? Guess we’ll need to update those geography books soon.

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History

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