What our teachers told us all these years is actually a bit lacking.
If you listened well to your teacher as school, you’d know that there are exactly seven continents on Earth: Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia/Oceania, Europe, North America, and South America.
About 300 million years ago, Earth didn’t have seven continents, but instead one massive supercontinent called Pangaea. This ‘supercontinent’ then broke into different continents that we know of today. However, new studies claim that another ancient continent has been lurking beneath the Indian Ocean.
The new study, featured in the Nature Communications magazine, showed that there are stones older than any other stone in the area, revealing that an ancient continent was lying at the bottom of the Indian Ocean between India and Madagascar.
The team of geologists led by Lewis Ashwal from the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, claim that the rocks found in Mauritius were no older than 9 million years, but the rocks found beneath the waters were aged at 3 billion years. The ancient continent, which geologists have named Mauritia, is believed to have sunk to the bottom of the sea as the continents shifted.
Professor Lewis Ashwal, lead author on the study, explained:
“Earth is made up of two parts – continents, which are old, and oceans, which are ‘young’. On the continents you find rocks that are over four billion years old, but you find nothing like that in the oceans, as this is where new rocks are formed.
“Mauritius is an island, and there is no rock older than 9 million years old on the island. However, by studying the rocks on the island, we have found zircons that are as old as 3 billion years. 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.”
What is Pangaea?
Pangaea (sometimes spelled Pangea), the most recent of a series of supercontinents on Earth, formed about 270 million years ago and broke apart about 200 million years ago. At this time most of the dry land on Earth was joined into one huge landmass that covered nearly a third of the planet’s surface. The giant ocean that surrounded the continent is known as Panthalassa.