Scientists identify ancient micro-continent under the Indian Ocean

March 01, 2013

Scientists at the Universities of Liverpool have found evidence of an ancient micro-continent buried beneath the Indian Ocean.

The ancient continent extends more than 1500 km 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.

The research team believe that this micro-continent, which they have named Mauritia, was split off from Madagascar and India between 61 and 83 million years ago as one single land mass rifted apart to form the continents around the Indian Ocean that we know today. Much of it was then smothered by thick lava deposits as a result of volcanic activity and submerged beneath the waves.

Scientists from the University of Liverpool's School of Environmental Sciences used satellite derived data to map crustal thickness under the Indian Ocean. Using geophysical data processing techniques the team were 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 7 km thick.

Collaborating researchers from Oslo University analysed sand grains from beaches in Mauritius, a volcanic island about 900 kilometres east of Madagascar. They 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-volcanic activity on Mauritius.

Professor Nick Kusznir, who led the University of Liverpool's processing and analysis of satellite gravitational field anomalies to map the Indian Ocean crustal thickness, said: "Our expertise in mapping crustal thickness beneath the oceans has revealed many large areas where the crust is much thicker than normal. When you put this information together with the analysis of the zircons found on the beaches of Mauritius we can conclude that there are remnants of fragmented continents under the Indian Ocean. We see what may be five or six other micro-continent fragments under the Indian Ocean. More research needs to done to confirm this. We also see similar features in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans."

The crustal thickness mapping techniques using satellite data developed by Liverpool and industry partners are applied to deep-water oil and gas exploration in frontier areas and have also been used for governments making UNCLOS law of sea territorial claims.
-end-
The research is published in Nature Geoscience.

University of Liverpool

Related Continental Crust Articles from Brightsurf:

Seismic data explains continental collision beneath Tibet
New imagery reveals the causes of seismic activity deep beneath the Himalaya region, contributing to an ongoing debate over the continental collision process when two tectonic plates crash into each other.

Artificial intelligence learns continental hydrology
The data sets on the Earth's gravitational field which are required for this, stem from the GRACE and GRACE-FO satellite missions.

Coordination helps avoid continental COVID-19 resurgence, European modeling study shows
Coordinated lockdown strategies among countries is key to preventing resurgent COVID-19 outbreaks in continental Europe, a new modeling study shows.

A continental-scale prediction on the functional diversity of stream microbes
Climate mediates continental scale patterns of stream microbial functional diversity.

New insights into the formation of Earth's crust
New research from Mauricio Ibanez-Mejia at the University of Rochester gives scientists better insight into the geological processes responsible for the formation of Earth's crust.

High-tech material in a salt crust
MAX phases unite the positive properties of ceramics and metals.

Earth's continental nurseries discovered beneath mountains
Earth is the only known planet with continents, and Rice University scientists are offering up new evidence that Earth's continental crust formed deep below mountainous continental arcs like the Andes.

Innovative tool allows continental-scale water, energy, and land system modeling
A new large-scale hydroeconomic model, developed by the Water Program at IIASA, will allow researchers to study water systems across whole continents, looking at sustainability of supply and the impacts of water management on the energy and agricultural sectors.

Creating a continental bird migration forecast
September is the peak of autumn bird migration, and billions of birds are winging their way south in dramatic pulses.

Continental microbes helped seed ancient seas with nitrogen
ASU researcher Ferran Garcia-Pichel, along with Christophe Thomazo, from the Laboratoire Biogéosciences in Dijon, France, and Estelle Couradeau, a former Marie Curie postdoc in both labs, show that biological soil crusts -- colonies of microorganisms that today colonize arid, desert environments -- may have played a significant role in the Earth's nitrogen cycle, helping to fertilize early oceans and create a nutrient link between atmosphere, continents and oceans.

Read More: Continental Crust News and Continental Crust Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.