Scientists claim to have found a portion of an ancient 'mini-continent' underneath the Indian Ocean that was wedged between India and Madagascar, and subsequently got detached when the two countries drifted apart to resemble the modern world as it is now.

The strip of land, known as Mauritia, drifted apart from Eastern Gondwana, as it was known then, and sunk beneath the waves about 60 million years ago.

A group of geoscientists from Norway, Germany, Britain and South Africa published their new study in the latest monthly issue of Nature Geoscience explaining their methodology of finding the ancient continent off Africa submerged under huge masses of lava. Their theory redefines the conventional premise of continent drifting and tectonic plates based on mantle pluming and lava hotspots.

Ancient World
Land on earth was all huddled together in a super continental called Rodinia. Wiki Commons

Discovering Mauritia, the Ancient Continent

The researchers concluded that they had found a sliver of an ancient continent when they were researching grains of sand from the beaches of Mauritius. During their research, they found that the grains dated back to a volcanic eruption which occurred nine million years ago. However, on a closer look, they found particles that predated the volcanic eruption as well.

Professor Trond Torsvik from University of Oslo, Norway, said, "We found zircons that we extracted from the beach sands, and these are something you find typically in a continental crust. They are very old in age."

The zircon, name of the ancient particles found during the research, dated between 1,970 and 600 million years ago. The scientists concluded that the ancient particles must have been spouted up by the volcanic eruption. Hence, the presence of zircon on Mauritian beaches.

Torsvik is of the opinion that fragments of the lost island would be found 10 km beneath the Indian Ocean.

The New Theory of Continental Drifting

The new study also said that the lost continents submerged underneath the sea seem to occur more frequently than earlier thought. According to their theory, the breakup of continents is directly linked with mantle plumes. Giant hot rocks spout out from the deep mantle, which in the long run softens the tectonic plates from below, forcing the plates to drift apart from the hotspots.