With the oldest rocks on Mauritius believed to be around nine billion years old‚ the newly discovered zircons are around three billion years old‚ suggesting that these are far too old to belong to the island of Mauritius. "On the continents you find rocks that are over four billion years old, but you find nothing like that in the oceans, as this is where new rocks are formed", said Prof.
Scientists say they have discovered a 3 billion year piece of crust in the Indian Ocean under the island of Mauritius which may be a part of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana. But based on the age of the zircons, the researchers think "there are much older crustal materials under Mauritius that could only have originated from a continent".
Zircon is a mineral which is discharged by lava during volcanic eruptions.
This may even be part of what is called Mauritia, an ancient "undiscovered" microcontinent, that broke off after India and Madagascar had separated 60 million years ago.
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Thought to be a relatively new landmass, the island was formed by very big underwater volcanic eruptions between 8 and 9 million years ago, and now belongs to the Mascarene Islands archipelago, along with the Saint Brandon, Réunion, and Rodrigues islands.
One of the zircon crystals.
Live Science revealed that Ashwal and his colleagues from the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) and Trond Torsvik from the University of Oslo and other agencies studied the mineral and zircon found in rocks spewed up by lava during volcanic eruptions. But their conclusions were challenged, as it was possible that the crystals were blown onto the beach from elsewhere.
We also know that Pangaea split into two supercontinents, Gondwana and Laurasia - the former accounts for most of the present day's Southern Hemisphere landmass, as well as the Indian Subcontinent, while the latter broke into the continents that make up the Northern Hemisphere.
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His team's results "corroborates the previous study and refutes any suggestion of wind-blown, wave-transported or pumice-rafted zircons for explaining the earlier results", he added. According to New Scientist, evidence shows that other volcanic islands in the Indian Ocean also sit on parts of the sunken land mass.
As Alice Klein reports for New Scientist, several pieces of continent have recently been found off the coast of Western Australia and underneath Iceland.
The remnants of Gondwanaland that exist today are the continents of Africa, South America, Antarctica, India and Australia collectively.
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