Scientists have confirmed the existence of a "lost continent" beneath the island of Mauritius in the Indian ocean, which remained after the breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana, which began 200 million years ago. Part of the crust, which was subsequently covered with young lava from volcanic eruptions on the island, was a tiny piece of ancient continent that separated from the island of Madagascar, when Africa, India, Australia and Antarctica broke up and formed the Indian ocean.
"We are studying the process of disintegration of the continents, to understand the geological history of the planet," says geologist of the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) Lewis Ashwal, lead author of work published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications.
Studying the mineral zircon, found in rocks spewed from volcanoes along with lava, Ashwal and his colleagues Michael Wiedenbeck from the German research centre for Geosciences (GFZ) and Trond Torsvik from the University of Oslo, guest scientist at GFZ, found that the remnants of this mineral was too old to belong to the island of Mauritius.
"the Land consists of two parts — the continents are older, and the oceans are "young". On the continents you can find rocks that are more than four billion years, but you will not find anything similar in the ocean, because there are a new breed," explains Aswell. "Mauritius is an island, and the island has no rocks older than 9 million years. However, studying the rocks on the island, we found zircon age of 3 billion years."
The Zircons are minerals that appear most often in the continental granites. They contain trace amounts of uranium, thorium, and lead, as well as survive geological processes, they can also be found a rich record of geological processes and extremely precise Dating.
"the fact that we found a zircon of this age, proves that under Mauritius there is much more old materials of earth's crust, which could be born only in the continent," says Ashwal.
This island is not the first time find the zircon age in billions of years. A study conducted in 2013 showed traces of this mineral in the beach sand. However, this study received a lot of criticism, for example, on the fact that this mineral could blow out by the wind or even bring in on car tires or shoes of scientists.
"the fact that we found the ancient zircons in the rock (trachyte age of 6 million years), reinforces the previous study and rejects any suggestion of the ability to be borne by the wind, waves or something, as was shown by the preliminary results," says Ashwal.
Aswell suggests that there are many pieces of "undiscovered continent" of different sizes, collectively, the "Maurice" that are scattered throughout the Indian ocean and the remains of the disintegration of Gondwana. The new results show that this decay was not a simple splitting of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana, and complex fragmentation is when parts of the continental crust of different sizes was abandoned in a developing Indian ocean.
The Supercontinent Gondwana existed for over 200 million years ago and included the breed age of 3.6 billion years, before split into something that now represents Africa, South America, Antarctica, India and Australia. Fragmentation occurred due to plate tectonics.
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