Zealandia: New Underwater Continent Discovered

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Scientists believe that the planet’s eighth continent is a piece of Gondwana, the ancient super-continent.

Scientists are convinced they have discovered the world’s eighth continent spreading underwater beneath New Zealand.

New Zealand, adjacent to Australia, has always been considered a part of the continent of Australia. However, researchers have discovered that New Zealand rests on a different continental crust sized 1.8 million-square-mile rather than oceanic crust.

A new continent:

According to a paper published this week by the Geological Society of America, the new continent of Zealandia, includes New Caledonia and other islands and territories in that section of the southwest Pacific Ocean.

Its size is about two-thirds the size of the country of Australia, and 94% of it is underwater.

Researchers from universities in Caledonia, Australia and New Zealand wrote that Zealandia’s isolation from Australia and large area support its definition as a continent.

“The identification of Zealandia as a geological continent, rather than a collection of continental islands, fragments, and slices, more correctly represents the geology of this part of Earth … [and] provides a fresh context in which to investigate processes of continental rifting, thinning, and breakup,” the authors wrote.

For more than a decade, scientists have hypothesized that New Zealand and outlying islands comprise a separate continent, or microcontinent.

However, they have concluded that Zealandia is a distinctly separate and contiguous mass which merits its elevation to the status of continent.

Ancient super continents:

Zealandia is part of an enormous ancient super-continent — Gondwana or Gondwanaland, as per researchers. The super-continent once included Australia and much of the remaining Southern Hemisphere, it broke apart around 180 million years ago, some pieces of it sank.

This month, scientists from South Africa announced that they have discovered another continent, which they called Maurita, beneath the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. That continent is believed to be a section of Gondwana as well.

If Zealandia is formally recognized as a continent, it would be the smallest among the earth’s continents.