Ancient 'Lost Continent' Found Under Island Nation of Mauritius

The Seven Colored Earths of Mauritius.  Credit: MNStudio/

The Seven Colored Earths of Mauritius.  Credit: MNStudio/

Researchers have found what they believe to be the remnants of an ancient microcontinent known as Mauritia.  The discovery came after newly discovered crystals expelled from volcanic eruptions on the island of Mauritius were found to be billions of years older than the island itself.  This 'lost continent', which was thought to connect Madagascar and India in the Gondwana supercontinent, likely disappeared in the Indian Ocean around 84 million years ago, but a piece of it appears to have been dredged up by volcanoes and hidden beneath the surface.

Lewis Ashwal, from the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, and his team have found crystals on the island that are billions of years old, but Mauritius is thought to have formed off of the southeast coast of Africa only 8 or 9 million years ago.

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

These crystals, known as zircons, are believed to form mainly from the granites of ancient continents that once spread over the Earth's surface.  Once Ashwal and his team were able to date the crystals to between 2 and 3 billion years old, it solidified their belief that they belonged to the lost continent.

"The fact that we have found zircons of this age proves that there are much older crystal materials under Mauritius that could only have originated from a continent," said Ashwal.

Although some scientists argue that the crystals could have been blown onto the island's beach from elsewhere, the fact that these deposits were found after being buried by ancient lava deposits points towards them being the remains of a lost continent.

Several other pieces of continent have been found off of the coast of Western Australia and underneath Iceland, and it is expected that other remnants of lost continents will be found in the coming years.

Source: Science Alert

Tobias Wayland