Mauritia: An Ancient Continent?

Mar 1, 2017 By James H, Young Editor
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A long, long time ago, all the exposed land on Earth was part of one big landmass known as Pangaea.

As billions of years passed, this landmass split up into several pieces of land that have drifted apart to create our eight continents. Yes, you read that right, eight continents!

For a few years, scientists have known about a micro-continent lost under the sea. Although it is still unofficial, the “undiscovered, lost continent,” has been named Mauritia.

History Of Our Continents

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Four billion years ago, after the formation of the Earth, the first “continent” to appear, called Vaalbara, was just a small island in the middle of a vast ocean.

Over time, about three billion years ago, more land appeared and formed the larger landmass, named Ur which contained parts of modern-day India, Madagascar, and Australia. However, both these “continents” were much smaller than the world’s land we know today.

The world got closer to what it is today through the formation of several “supercontinents,” or the largest landmasses of a given time period. Formed 1.8 billion years ago, the first existing supercontinent that geologists are sure of, was known as Columbia (there may have been other supercontinents that existed before, but those are questionable). The remnants of Columbia and some new pieces of land formed the supercontinent Rodinia about a million years ago.

After that, because of plate tectonics, Rodinia broke up and formed the supercontinent Pangaea. And from there, landmasses drifted to create the seven continents we know today. 

The New Discovery

Scientists examined the mineral zircon found on the island of Mauritius. Zircon is spewed out from the interior of our Earth during volcanic eruptions. They found that while Mauritius itself is only a few million years old, the zircon fragments were much older - in fact, three billion years old. Fragments of this ancient micro-continent are scattered along the floor of the Indian Ocean. To scientists, this is proof that this island could only have formed along with the formation of the other seven continents.

Will the world stay as seven major continents forever? As the continents drift toward each other across the Pacific, another supercontinent just might form. Don’t worry about continents crashing though - it won’t happen for another 250 million years!