Lost continent discovered under the African island of Mauritius

It is thought that Mauritia was a part of a larger continent called Gondwana which smashed into Pangea and later broke away to create South America, Antarctica, Africa and Australia.

"Mauritius is an island, and there is no rock older than 9 million years old on the island", said Ashwal.

Known as a tropical holiday destination, Mauritius is a volcanic island, formed by the eruption of volcanoes.

"The fact that we have found zircons of this age proves that there are much older crustal materials under Mauritius that could only have originated from a continent", says Ashwal.

The modern island of Mauritius is one of the world's youngest land masses, lying above the remains of an ancient landmass that predates complex life and an oxygenated atmosphere.

Thought to be a relatively new landmass, the island was formed by enormous underwater volcanic eruptions between 8 and 9 million years ago, and now belongs to the Mascarene Islands archipelago, along with the Saint Brandon, Réunion, and Rodrigues islands.

Zircons are minerals that occur mainly in granites from the continents.

"According to the new results, this break-up did not involve a simple splitting of the ancient super-continent of Gondwana", said Wits University geologist Lewis Ashwal in a statement.

They found evidence for a continental crust beneath Mauritius, which would have been part of the continent "Mauritia" and formed part of the ancient nucleus of Madagascar and India.

Until about 85 million years ago, Mauritia was a small continent - about a quarter of the size of Madagascar - nestled between India and Madagascar, which were much closer than they are today.

'It's like plasticine: when continents are stretched they become thinner and split apart, ' Martin Van Kranendonk at the University of New South Wales told New Scientist.

He also suggested that several pieces of this "undiscovered continent" of various sizes are spread across the Indian Ocean, which is due to the breaking of the Gondwanaland.

"Earth is made up of two parts - continents, which are old, and oceans, which are 'young, '" he said.

The continent would have been 932 miles across and would have linked Madagascar and India together.

"(This) corroborates the previous study and refutes any suggestion of wind-blown, wave-transported or pumice-rafted zircons for explaining the earlier results", said Ashwal. His study was published in Nature Communications, one of the most revered publications that feature studies of celebrated authors and researchers.