A new study has uncovered the mysterious processes that gave rise to a bizarrely-shaped plume beneath Iceland.

Scientists estimate the Icelandic mantle plume, which played a major role in the geologic and oceanographic evolution of the region, has about five finger-like appendages extending from its center.

The new analysis suggests the phenomenon is caused by the injection of hot rock into a layer of Earth roughly 100 kilometers (62 miles) beneath the surface, creating the strange radial tendrils as it spreads.

Plumes carry hot rock from deep beneath the surface, and in this case, ‘had a significant effect on the stratigraphic evolution of the North Atlantic Ocean,’ the authors explain in the study, published to Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

As this rock is more buoyant, the researchers say it may have helped keep Scotland and western Norway above sea level, according to New Scientist, despite the crust in these areas being ‘considerably shallower than expected.’

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