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The Mascarene Plateau is an undersea plateau in the Indian Oceanmarker, north and east of Madagascarmarker. The plateau extends approximately 2000 km, from the Seychellesmarker in the north to Réunionmarker in the south. The plateau covers an area of over 115,000 km² of shallow water, with depths ranging from 8 to 150 meters, plunging to 4000 m to the abyssal plain at its edges. It is the largest undersea plateau in the Indian Ocean.

The northern part of the plateau, including the Seychellesmarker and Agalega islands, is formed of granite, and is a fragment of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana. The granite is topped with deposits of limestone and basalt. The basalt deposits in the Seychelles are from the Deccan Trapsmarker eruption, which occurred in central Indiamarker 65 million years ago. The Seychelles formerly lay next to the west coast of India, but seafloor spreading later moved India to its current position, causing it to collide with Asia.

The southern part of the plateau, including the Mascarene Islandsmarker (the mountainous islands of Mauritiusmarker, Réunionmarker, and Rodriguesmarker, the Cargados Carajosmarker Shoals (Saint Brandon), Saya de Malha Bankmarker Nazareth Bank), Soudan Banks and Hawkins Bank, was formed by the Réunion hotspot. The banks and shoals were once volcanic islands, much like Mauritius and Réunion, which have now sunk or eroded to below sea level or, in the case of the Cargados Carajos, to low coral islands. The Saya de Malha Bank formed 35 million years ago, and the Nazareth Bank and the Cargados Carajos shoals after that. Limestone banks found on the plateau are the remnants of coral reefs, indicating that the plateau was a succession of islands. Some of the banks may have been islands as recently as 18,000 - 6,000 years ago, when sea levels were up to 130 meters lower during the most recent ice age. Mauritius formed 8-10 million years ago, and Rodrigues and Réunion beginning two million years ago; Piton de la Fournaisemarker volcano on Réunion is one of the most active volcanoes in the world.

See also

Oceanic plateau


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