29 Oct 2014

Piece of Australia discovered under Vanuatu

9:52 pm on 29 October 2014

A groundbreaking discovery has been made in Vanuatu, with Australian researchers saying it could change theories on how continents were formed.

Researchers from James Cook University found a fragment of volcanic rock from the 'geological basement' of Vanuatu that hasn't been found anywhere else in the Pacific but matches ancient material from Australia.

The crystals called 'zircon' were dated at up to three billion years old.

One of the co-authors of the paper, Dr Carl Spandler, says the crystals, matching material from northern Australia, may have separated from the Australian mainland prior to the Cenozoic Era, around 100 million years ago.

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Photo: RNZI

Dr Spandler says the find calls for a rethink of how the rates and processes of generating the Earth's new crust are calculated.

The findings were made by one of the university's honours students, Janrich Buys, who completed his Geology degree in 2013.