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Shock 1.7bn year old find in Australia

New research may change the way we think about Australia.
New research may change the way we think about Australia.

A DISCOVERY in a tiny Australian town, home to just 250 people has changed everything we thought we knew about our country.

It all started when researchers from Curtin University noticed that the landscape of Georgetown in north Queensland, which is commonly known as the Georgetown Inlier, looked very different to the rest of the country.

Something just didn't seem right about the sandstone rocks, so the researchers decided to seek out their origins.

They were surprised by what they found, because it turns out that a giant chunk of our country was actually once a part of Canada some 1.7 billion years ago.

More specifically, the rocks belonged to what is known as Western Laurentia, the core of North America, according to the new research published in the science publication Geology.

Parts of Laurentia, which broke away from several continents and moved all around the world, were also found at the top of Australia.

Scientists believe a giant chunk of Australia was actually once a part of Canada 1.7 billion years ago.
Scientists believe a giant chunk of Australia was actually once a part of Canada 1.7 billion years ago.

According to the study, a chasm had grown between Laurentia and the Georgetown Inlier as the supercontinent of Nuna began breaking apart, the National Geographic reports. This left a small part of Laurentia behind.

"Our research shows that about 1.7 billion years ago, Georgetown rocks were deposited into a shallow sea when the region was part of North America," lead researcher Adam Nordsvan, from Curtin University, said.

"Georgetown then broke away from North America and collided with the Mount Isa region of northern Australia around 100 million years later. This was a critical part of global continental reorganisation when almost all continents on Earth assembled to form the supercontinent called Nuna.

"The team was able to determine this by using both new sedimentological field data and new and existing geochronological data from both Georgetown and Mount Isa to reveal this unexpected information on the Australia continent."

The researchers are continuing to delve into Australia's past.

"This new finding is a key step in understanding how Earth's first supercontinent Nuna may have formed, a subject still being pursued by our multidisciplinary team here at Curtin University," co-author Zheng-Xiang Li said.

Topics:  australia canada editors picks evolution geography geology