Scientists claim to have discovered remains of a lost ancient continent between India and Madagascar, found buried under huge masses of lava.
The continent fragment known as Mauritia detached about 60 million years ago while Madagascar and India drifted apart, and had been hidden under lava.
While the grains dated back to a volcanic eruption that happened about nine million years ago, they contained minerals that were much older,according to researchers.
Professor Trond Torsvik, from the University of Oslo, Norway, said: “We found zircons that we extracted from the beach sands, and these are something you typically find in a continental crust. They are very old in age.”
The zircon dated to between 1,970 and 600 million years ago, and the team concluded that they were remnants of ancient land that had been dragged up to the surface of the island during a volcanic eruption.
Prof Torsvik said that he believed pieces of Mauritia could be found about 10km down beneath Mauritius and under a swathe of the Indian Ocean.
It would have spanned millions years of history, from the Precambrian Era when land was barren and devoid of life to the age when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.