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‘Geologists are excited to find a piece of Australia beneath Vanuatu. This could lead to a new understanding of tectonics and geology if investigated further.’
Whenever geologists find rocks that ‘shouldn’t be there’, it gets them all excited. With good reason, of course. So when a team of scientists from James Cook University in Australia found tiny crystals of a mineral called zircon inside volcanic rocks from Vanuatu, it got them all cock-a-hoop. Why? Because research suggests that these crystals originally came from the north of Australia.
These crystals, according to the geologists that conducted this research, ‘shouldn’t be there’, and since they are there, it means that our knowledge of how continents are formed could do with some re-jigging. So far, Vanuatu has been believed to be free of continental influences, and it was understood to not be part of Australia at all. Now, this finding brings it back into the fold, and a new theory is that this little fragment must have separated from Australia around 100 million years ago, before being carried up in magma from the depths of the volcanic plumbing systems.
However, exciting as the finding is, more research and study are necessary before any conclusions are drawn. Vanuatu’s geological history books need to be opened, and some of the fundamental ‘truths’ need to be questioned – and maybe altered too. This could also lead to a rethink of how we calculate the rates and processes behind the generation of new crust on Earth, and how continents and other land masses move in relation to the molten liquid inside the planet.

Ankit Gupta

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