Long Lost Continent Found: Indian Ocean Unveils Hidden Lands

The discovery of a long lost island has prompted researchers to believe that many more hidden lands could exist beneath the Indian Ocean, according to new research.

The patch of land is a continent fragment known as Mauritia. Scientists believe that it became detached about 60 million years ago around the same time that India and Madagascar first began to drift. India and Madagascar, now thousands of miles apart, once existed as joint lands with Mauritia between them.

Grains of sand found on Maurita belong to a volcanic eruption that occurred about 9 million years ago, the latest issue of Nature Geoscience reports. But scientists believe that the piece of land could actually have been created much earlier than that.

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

Around 510 to 180 million years ago, all three parts of land would have made up Gondwana, one of two continents that existed during the Triassic era. The plates began breaking apart around 170 million years ago due to a geological phenomenon known as mantle plumes. A mantle plume is created by hot rocks, which cause heat to rise through the earth's mantle and lend to the loosening of tectonic plates in certain hotspots. One of those hotspots, called the Reunion hotspot, is located under the island of reunion, which is covered by the Indian Ocean.

Since Maurita, was previously believed to be only a trail of the Reunion hotspot, is actually a fragment of land- scientist have conjectured that other unknown pieces of land could exist as well. If that is the case, then the whole existence of "micro-continents" may be more common than previously believed researchers said.