Scientists locate ‘lost continent’ of Argoland that vanished 155 million years ago

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After seemingly disappearing from the Earth’s surface 155 million years ago, the so-called ‘lost continent’ Argoland has finally been found, hidden among the islands of Southeast Asia.

To create a giant puzzle: The discovery, published in the peer-reviewed journal Gondwana Research on October 19, was the result of painstaking seven years of research by scientists led by Eldert Advokaat.

He and his research team from Utrecht University collected geological information from the Argo Abyssal Plain, which showed that the 5,000-kilometer-long stretch of continent called Argoland must have drifted northwest before ending up in Southeast Asia. The puzzle proved challenging, as Argoland appeared to have splintered into a large number of microcontinental fragments, making its journey difficult to trace.

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The Hidden Journey of Argoland: Argoland, once part of the ancient supercontinent Gondwana, broke away from Australia 155 million years ago. It has remained a geological mystery for decades, leaving a trail of clues in the deep ocean basin known as the Argo Abyssal Plain off the northwest coast of Australia. Unlike some other landmasses that broke away from the ancient supercontinents, Argoland did not remain intact, but broke up into a series of fragments scattered across Southeast Asia.

Birth of an “Argopelago”: The breakthrough in locating Argoland came when researchers realized that it had never been a single, coherent landmass, but rather a complex collection of microcontinents separated by older ocean basins. This led them to use the term “Argopelago” to describe this fragmented ensemble.

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Advokaat and his colleagues found evidence of Argoland’s history, which spanned millions of years of fissures and faults, with oceans continually contributing to the land’s fragmentation. It became clear that Argoland had not disappeared, but existed as a very vast and fragmented land mass beneath the green jungles of Indonesia and Myanmar.

Before this discovery, the term ‘lost continent’ was widely used to describe Argoland because it had not been accurately traced and its fragmented nature not fully understood.

Impact on biodiversity and climate: The team’s discovery also provides valuable insights into Earth’s past climate and the uneven distribution of species in Southeast Asia. When fragments of Argoland collided with landmasses in Southeast Asia, they played a crucial role in shaping the region’s rich biodiversity.

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Argoland’s history may also shed light on the formation of the Wallace Line, an invisible barrier separating Southeast Asian and Australian fauna. This boundary has long puzzled scientists because of the stark contrast it provides in terms of wildlife distribution.

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