Monday, February 25, 2013

Has the lost continent of Lemuria been found off Madagascar?

Image: Jack Abuin/ZUMA Press/Corbis via Nature 
Well this is one way to start out a Monday--researchers publishing in the journal Nature (yeah, a REAL scientific publication!) have confirmed that there is a forgotten continent submerged under the Indian Ocean. Could this be the source of the legend of the lost land of Lemuria?

Ring-tailed lemurs. Source: Wikipedia

In 1864, British zoologist Philip Sclater published a paper on primates from Madagascar--noting that they had similarities to organisms in India--but not Africa (the continent the isle is closest too). He speculated that India and Madagascar were once connected and dubbed the "lost" land continent to be "Lemuria". The name given to the primates he studied? Lemurs!

His theory was that a land bridge connected Madgascar to India. When the continent broke up, it left behind separated groups of the same species that eventually evolved along divergent paths--but that still held similarities. The theory of land bridges became en vogue in the 19th century and eventually fell out of favor once plate tectonics was discovered.

Fast forward to today's news: After analyzing crystalization in beach sand, they concluded an island chain is actually the remains of a long lost continent. From Nature:
Evidence for the long-lost land comes from Mauritius (see photo at top), a volcanic island about 900 kilometres east of Madagascar. The oldest basalts on the island date to about 8.9 million years ago, says Bjørn Jamtveit, a geologist at the University of Oslo. Yet grain-by-grain analyses of beach sand that Jamtveit and his colleagues collected at two sites on the Mauritian coast revealed around 20 zircons — tiny crystals of zirconium silicate that are exceedingly resistant to erosion or chemical change — that were far older.
Another interesting bit...
The paper also suggests that not just one but many fragments of continental crust lie beneath the floor of the Indian Ocean. Analyses of Earth’s gravitational field reveal several broad areas where sea-floor crust is much thicker than normal — at least 25 to 30 kilometres thick, rather than the normal 5 to 10 kilometres. Those crustal anomalies may be the remains of a landmass that the team has dubbed Mauritia, which they suggest split from Madagascar when tectonic rifting and sea-floor spreading sent the Indian subcontinent surging northeast millions of years ago. Subsequent stretching and thinning of the region’s crust sank the fragments of Mauritia, which together had comprised an island or archipelago about three times the size of Crete, the researchers estimate.
So maybe Lemuria DID exist as a land bridge that later (for lack of a better term) "disolved" into the plate on which it rode. More research is needed, but the new science does seem to at least corroborate some of the earlier biology work done by Sclater.

The kicker? There may be MORE of these "ghost continents" lying in wait, under the oceans of the world. The researchers included, in the same journal, an additional submission positing the possibility that there are many more of these hidden land masses.

This is adding fuel to the claims that other forgotten continents like Mu and Atlantis also may have actually existed--or at least there is scientific basis behind the legends.

What do you think--are the legends true?

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