There might be more truth to the legend of the lost island of Atlantis than previously believed: Pieces of an Atlantis-like ancient continent may have been discovered deep beneath the floor of the Indian Ocean, a new study suggests, BBC News reported.
No one's directly tied the newly found continent to Atlantis, but the find is impressive, Atlantis or not. Scientists believe the continent, a strip of land dubbed "Mauritia" beneath the island of Mauritius, was created by plate tectonics and is from the time supercontinents dominated the Earth's surface, according to Discovery News. Back then, Mauritia was supposedly just one small slab of the massive Gondwana that eventually segmented into Madagascar, India, Australia and Antarctica roughly 170 million years ago.
Scientists believe Mauritia was a "microcontinent" that was squeezed between India and Madagascar.
As Discovery explains, "The micro-continent later broke away from Madagascar between 83.5 and 61 million years ago, [and] the mini-continent was shredded as it passed over mid-ocean ridges." Mauritia was finally buried by eruptions of lava, hiding the sunken continent until now.
Researchers in the study made the discovery after studying grains of sand from the beaches on Mauritius, according to USA Today. The grains reportedly dated back to a volcanic eruption from 9 million years ago, but held minerals that were even older, mineral fragments known as zircons that were 660 and 1,970-million-years-old. Scientists determined the zircons were evidence of Maritia dredged up by a volcanic eruption.
"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," said Prof. Trond Torsvik from the University of Oslo, Norway.
Further evidence of Mauritia is likely about 6.2 miles below the surface of Mauritius and beneath part of the Indian Ocean, according to Torsvik.
"At the moment the Seychelles is a piece of granite, or continental crust, which is sitting practically in the middle of the Indian Ocean," said Prof. Torsvik.
"But once upon a time, it was sitting north of Madagascar. And what we are saying is that maybe this was much bigger, and there are many of these continental fragments that are spread around in the ocean."
While there's already a decent amount of evidence proving the microcontinent's existence, Torsvik says more research is still needed to fully comprehend the magnitude of the discovery.
"We need seismic data which can image the structure... this would be the ultimate proof. Or you can drill deep, but that would cost a lot of money."
Torsvik's study will be published in the journal Nature Geoscience.