Zealandia Is World’s Eighth and Newest Continent

Zealandia Is World’s Eighth and Newest Continent PHOTOGRAPH: Wikimedia Commons/Alexrk | Under CC BY-SA 3.0

Scientists identified a new continent in the Pacific Ocean. The scientists called this eighth continent as Zealandia. The continent is connected to New Zealand. It has gone unnoticed until new research uncovered another continent which was mostly a submerged land mass. As of the moment, the world only recognizes seven continents namely Antartica, Africa, Australia, Europe, Asia, North America and South America.

Zealandia: Earth’s Hidden Continent

A team composed of 11 geologists submitted their research to the Geological Society of America. The researchers titled the findings as Zealandia: Earth’s Hidden Continent . In the paper, they appealed that the world consider the land mass as the eighth continent.

The continent’s crust thickness ranges from 10 to 30 km, which is roughly the size of India. Some researchers believed that about a 100 million years ago, the land mass broke off from Antartica. Afterwards, it also broke off from Australia, about 80 million years ago.

Several territories including New Zealand and New Caledona are part of the newly discovered 1.9 million-square-mile land mass. It was once part of the ancient super continent Gondwana which broke up about a 100 million years ago.

The 4.9 million-square-kilometer continental crust expanse of Zealandia is 94 percent underwater. Typically, only New Zealand and New Caledonia sit above the water surface. The submerged part of the continent was the result of the late cretaceous crustal thinning before the continent broke up with other huge land mass. Consequently, it also broke up after the consequent isostatic balance. The researchers saw the submerged landmass with the use of an upgraded satellite-based and gravity-map technology.

The location of Zealandia is at the southwestern part of the Pacific Ocean. The submerged continental crust across a large area connected the islands. The continent is the youngest and thinnest continent on the planet.

Does Zealandia meet the requirements of a continent?

Additionally, the researchers stated that the identification of Zealandia as a geological continent correctly represents the geology of the Earth. The findings indicated that Zealandia must be recognized as a continent in its own right rather than a simple collection of fragments and slices of continental islands. The land mass provided a fresher context which will allow to further deepen the investigation of the process of continental rifting, thinning and break up.

Moreover, Zealandia met the criteria of a continent. The elevation above the surrounding area, distinct geology, crust thicker than the regular ocean floor and well-defined area. The study took 20 years to fulfill. Nick Mortimer, the study’s lead author, hopes that the research will garner interest to learn more what is beneath the water surface of New Zealand. For the full text of the report, please click here.

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