Before the various land masses that are now Africa, India, Australia, and Antarctica went their separate ways some 200 million years ago, they were part of the supercontinent Gondwana. So, too, was a "lost continent" scientists say is now hiding beneath the island nation of Mauritius. In a video, Lewis Ashwal of South Africa's University of the Witwatersrand explains the oldest rock on Earth exists in continents, while younger rocks form the ocean basins. Formed with volcanic eruptions in the Indian Ocean, Mauritius is also made up of young rock less than 9 million years old, per a release. But remarkably, scientists have found that rock contains minerals that date back 3 billion years to "one of the earliest periods in Earth's history," per Live Science.
These minerals known as zircons prove "there are much older crustal materials under Mauritius that could only have originated from a continent," says Ashwal, whose research is published in Nature. He believes Zircons found on a tiny fragment of Gondwana that separated from Madagascar were covered by lava during the volcanic eruptions that created Mauritius before the lava solidified into the Mauritius we see today, hiding the older materials beneath. This suggests "a complex splintering [of Gondwana] took place, with fragments of continental crust of variable sizes left adrift within the evolving Indian Ocean basin." A 2013 study found zircons in Mauritius' sand, but some argued the minerals might have been carried there on the wind or scientists' shoes. This study, however, is literally set in stone. (Mount St. Helens hides something, too.)