Researchers say long-lost continent lies beneath Indian Ocean island

A long-lost continent once sitting between India and Madagascar now lies at the bottom of the Indian Ocean, according to a report published Tuesday.

Lewis Ashwal, a scientist at the University of Witwatersrand, initially discovered in 2013 that the island of Mauritius had a stronger gravitational pull than other parts of the Indian Ocean. Ashwal and his team theorized that the island was sitting on a piece of a sunken continent.

According to the report, the team of scientists found zircon crystals that were up to 3 billion years old even though Mauritius is only 8 million years old. Zircon crystals already located on the island’s beaches have been dated at 2 billion years old. Researchers believe volcanic eruptions may have blasted the crystals from below the surface. The scientists dubbed the sunken continent as Mauritia.

Maruitia was a small continent, about the size of Madagascar, until about 85 million years ago. When India and Madagascar began to break about, the continent began to stretch out. According to New Scientist, evidence shows that other volcanic islands in the Indian Ocean also sit on parts of the sunken land mass.

Alan Collins, a researcher at the University of Adelaide in Australia, told the magazine that several pieces of old continents are being discovered. He added that pieces have recently been found off Western Australia and underneath Iceland.

“It’s only now as we explore more of the deep oceans that we’re finding all these bits of ancient continents around the place.”