But three billion years ago, a continent covered the ocean where the East African island now lies, according to a new study. "However, by studying the rocks on the island, we have found zircons that are as old as 3 billion years". "However, by studying the rocks on the island, we have found zircons that are as old as 3 billion years".
'Mauritius and other Mauritian continental fragments are dominantly underlain by Archaean continental crust, and that these originally formed part of the ancient nucleus of Madagascar and India'.
He suggests that there are many pieces of various sizes of "undiscovered continent", collectively called "Mauritia", spread over the Indian Ocean, left over by the breakup of Gondwanaland. Some of that land, including the zircon crystals, was recycled into the rising plume of magma that fueled the eruptions that eventually built Mauritius.
Unfortunately it seems that this could not be home to the legendary city of Atlantis because it fell into the sea some 84 million years ago.
Mauritia was a small continent - about the quarter of the size of Madagascar - until about 85 million years ago, when the two countries it was positioned between began to move apart, stretching it and causing it to break up.
A handful of zircons dating back almost 2 billion years had already been uncovered in the island's sands. Ashwal and colleagues pried the newfound crystals from rocky outcrops on the island, erasing any doubts of the zircons' origins.
In 2013, traces of billions year old zircons were found in the beach sand on Mauritius.
According to the researchers, zircons are minerals that are predominantly found in granites from the continents and contain trace amounts of uranium, thorium, and lead.
The modern island of Mauritius is one of the world's youngest land masses, lying above the remains of an ancient landmass that predates complex life and an oxygenated atmosphere.
"The fact that we found the ancient zircons in rock, corroborates the previous study and refutes any suggestion of wind-blown, wave-transported or pumice-rafted zircons for explaining the earlier results", Ashwal said.
Researchers have long suspected that some parts of the Indian Ocean have stronger gravitational fields than others, indicating thicker crusts.
Alan Collins, a researcher at the University of Adelaide in Australia, told the magazine that several pieces of old continents are being discovered.
Africa, South America, Antarctica, India and Australia used to be a part of it before they split-off.