The lava-covered piece of continent, dubbed ‘Mauritia,’ was found under the popular island of Mauritius.
Containing rocks up to 3.6 billion years old, Gondawanaland split into what now are Africa, South America, Antarctica, India and Australia.
Professor Lewis Ashwal, lead author of the paper, says there are a number of pieces of “undiscovered continent” of various sizes spread over the Indian Ocean, left over by the breakup.
The team made the discovery by analyzing a mineral — zircon — found in rocks spewed up by lava during volcanic eruptions.
They said that remnants of the mineral were way too old to belong to Mauritius. “Mauritius is an island, and there is no rock older than 9 million years old on the island,” says Ashwal. But by studying rocks on the island, they found zircons that were 3 billion years old.
Ashwal says the fact the team found ancient zircons in rock “refutes any suggestion of wind-blown, wave-transported or pumice-rafted zircons.”
The researchers say their results demonstrate, in no uncertain terms, “the existence of ancient continental crust beneath Mauritius.”
That continent might be lost forever, but it’s still leaving traces to remind us of its existence.
“The fact that we have found zircons of this age proves that there are much older crustal materials under Mauritius that could only have originated from a continent,” said Ashwal.