Scientists found an ancient continent’s chemical fingerprints in rock samples taken from Baffin Island in Nunavut, Canada.
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A piece of a lost continent has been discovered lurking beneath Canada — and the evidence was hiding in rocks that originated in Earth’s interior, where diamonds form.The secret was concealed in a type of diamond-bearing volcanic rock, known as kimberlite. Kimberlite originates deep underground in magma in Earth’s mantle, and picks up hitchhiking diamonds as it hurtles toward the surface during volcanic eruptions. The kimberlite, from Baffin Island in northern Canada, was collected by a diamond mining and manufacturing company. Scientists found that the mineral chemistry of the Baffin Island kimberlite matched that from an ancient and long-lost continent that formed nearly 3 billion years ago and broke up 150 million years ago. A portion of that “lost” continent still anchors part of North America, and based on the location of the kimberlite samples, the size of that ancient slab is about 10% bigger than previously thought, researchers reported in a new study.Related: Shine on: Photos of dazzling mineral specimens”Finding these ‘lost’ pieces is like finding a missing piece of a puzzle,” lead study author Maya Kopylova, a geologist with the University of British Columbia in Canada, said in a statement.Earth’s land masses, or continents, didn’t always look the way they do now. The first continents emerged when Earth was just a restless baby planet. These ancient and enormous rocky slabs, called cratons, then shattered to form smaller land masses.”One fragment of the North Atlantic craton is now part of Scotland,” Kopylova told Live Science in an email. Another fragment is part of Greenland, and one more is part of Labrador in eastern Canada.”Now we have found one more fragment on Baffin Island,” she said. For hundreds of millions of years, plate tectonics pushed continents together to form giant supercontinents, only to pull them apart and push them together again. The last of the supercontinents, Pangaea, began to separate about 200 million years ago, and by around 60 million years ago, the continents had split into the seven that we know today: Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America.Though the planet’s first continents fragmented and were lost to time,
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