Ten great discoveries: A lost continent is found

sea-2wFor National Science and Engineering Week , we are celebrating 10 great scientific advances made at the University of Liverpool. Over the 10 days of the event, we will be highlighting a different advance each day to show what science can achieve.

Our fifth advance in the series is the discovery of a continent submerged under the Indian Ocean.

In 2013, scientists at the University of Liverpool revealed evidence of an ancient micro-continent buried beneath the Indian Ocean, which they called Mauritia.

The ancient continent extends more than 1,500km in length from the Seychelles to the island of Mauritius and contains rocks as old as 2,000 million years, much older than the Indian Ocean which has formed only in the last 165 million years.

Using geophysical data processing techniques, the team was able to identify areas where the crust beneath the sea-floor was up to 30km or more thick, the same thickness as continental crust but much greater than that of oceanic crust which is on average only about 7km thick.

They then put this information together with sand samples taken from the beaches on the island of Mauritius where colleagues from Oslo found the sand contained tiny crystals of ancient zircon, a mineral normally associated with a continental crust and dated between 660 million and two billion years old – a lot older than the sand grains which were formed from the nine million-year-old volcanic activity on Mauritius.

To see the other nine great advances, visit the University’s news pages during National Science and Engineering Week (14-23 March).

If you want to find out more about current research in this area at the University of Liverpool, visit the School of Environmental Sciences website, or go to our study pages to find out more about studying geology.

Ten Great Discoveries



Leave a comment