Fragments of an ancient continent are buried beneath the floor of the Indian Ocean, a study suggests.
A fragment of the lost continent, known as Mauritia, disconnected and disappeared approximately 60 million years ago while Madagascar and India drifted apart.
The strip of land eventually fragmented and vanished beneath the waves as the modern world started to take shape.
The study’s findings, which were published in the journal Nature Geosciences, suggest that such micro-continents occur more frequently than previously thought.
The scientists note that the break-up of continents is often linked to mantle plumes. A mantle plume is an upwelling of abnormally hot rock within the Earth’s mantle.
Scientists believe that mantle plumes soften the tectonic plates from below, until the plates split apart at the hotspots.
They contend that major mantle plumes were responsible for the break-up of Eastern Gondwana approximately 170 million years ago. At first, one part was separated, which eventually fragmented into Madagascar, India, Australia and Antarctica.
Based on the fact that the continental fragments were previously not recognized as such because they were hidden by the volcanic rocks of the Reunion plume, scientists have concluded that such micro-continents in the ocean occur more frequently than previously thought.