CORNWALL and parts of Devon used to be part of France 400 million years ago, a study claims.
England, Wales and Scotland were believed to have formed by the merging of Avalonia and Laurentina.
However, it is now thought the countries were formed by the collision of three ancient continents and not two.
Geologists at the University of Plymouth believe the third land mass called Armorica was also involved.
The scientists have found evidence in the rocks in Southwest England suggesting that the region is distinct from the rest of the country.
Leader of the study Dr Arjan Dijkstra said it offers a “completely new way of thinking about how Britain was formed.
“It has always been presumed that the border of Avalonia and Armoica was beneath what would seem to be the natural boundary of the English Channel.
“But our findings suggest that although there is no physical line on the surface, there is a clear geological boundary which separates Cornwall and south Devon from the rest of the UK.”
Researchers examined mineral properties at 22 sites across Devon and Cornwall.
Their findings suggest there is a boundary across the two counties from the Exe estuary in the east to the town of Camelford in the west.
The areas that are north of the border share geological roots with the rest of England and Wales.
However, the areas in the south share roots with France and mainland Europe.
The authors of the research that was published in the Nature Communications said this explains why tin and tungsten are found in Southwest England and Brittany in France, but nowhere else in England.
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Dr Dijkstra said: “We always knew that around 10,000 years ago you would have been able to walk from England to France.
“But our findings show that millions of years before that, the bonds between the two countries would have been even stronger.
“It explains the immense mineral wealth of south-west England, which had previously been something of a mystery, and provides a fascinating new insight into the geological history of the UK.”
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