Scientists on Wednesday confirmed that there was a “lost continent” under the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. They said the landmass – dubbed Mauritia – was left over after the Gondwana supercontinent split about 200 to 300 million years ago.

Mauritia disappeared into the ocean after India and the African island of Madagascar split from each other around 85 million years ago, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Communications.

In 2013, scientist Lewis Ashwal and his colleagues at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, had discovered that the volcanic island exerted a stronger gravitational pull than other regions of the Indian Ocean – this was the first clue that led them to the prehistoric discovery. They then studied zircon crystals found on the island, some of which were found to be up to 3 billion years old. Mauritius is about 8 million years old.

Credit: Nature Communications

Around 85 million years ago, Mauritia is believed to have been sandwiched between India and Madagascar. It started to stretch as the two countries started to move further apart from each other. Scientists are certain that some of the land in Mauritius, including the zircon crystals, had been recycled into the magma ejected during volcanic eruptions and shifting tectonic plates, which later formed Mauritius.