The remains of an ancient continent ripped apart by plate tectonics tens of millions of years ago may lie under the Indian Ocean, researchers say. Scientists who analyzed beach sand on the island of Mauritius found tiny crystals of zirconium silicate that were hundreds of millions of years older than any rocks on the island, Nature reports. They believe the zircons hint at the existence of a landmass they have called Mauritia, which was sunk around the same time the landmass that became India started to move north from Madagascar. Plate movement reconstruction and gravity mapping backs up their theory.
Researchers believe the Seychelles may be a surviving fragment of the lost continent, the BBC reports. "At the moment the Seychelles is a piece of granite, or continental crust, which is sitting practically in the middle of the Indian Ocean," the lead researcher says. "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." Finding out more about what remains of the long-lost land will require seismic data or some very expensive drilling, he says.