Geologists have determined there’s a new continent that has been hiding under our noses for a millennia.
Coined “Zealandia”, the continent was discovered by recent satellite date and rock samples, though many in the geology and science community knew of its existence for many years now, there is finally enough factual proof and determinant studies to suggest Zealandia a legitimate continent.
Larger than the size of India, the continent is 4.9 million square kilometers (nearly 1.9 million square miles), yet most of it is submerged in the ocean with only about 6% showing above water. Zealandia was once part of Gondwana, the ancient supercontinent that merged with Laurasia around 335 million years ago to form the singular supercontinent Pangea, the study states. New Zealand and New Caledonia are part of the new continent, and could possibly lead to economic and geopolitical implications.
Zealandia also has a thicker, less dense crust than the surrounding ocean floor, and an area large enough to distinguish it from a ‘microcontinent’. The study points out that while India is big enough to be a continent, and probably used to be, it’s now part of Eurasia because it collided and stuck to that continent millions of years ago.
They went on to add in their Geological Society of America Journal (GSA Today) piece that “This is not a sudden discovery but a gradual realisation; as recently as 10 years ago we would not have had the accumulated data or confidence in interpretation to write this paper.” Its isolation from Australia and large area support its definition as a continent — Zealandia.
Several islands, notably New Zealand and New Caledonia, are connected by submerged continental crust across a large area of Earth’s surface,” the authors explained, and that “This region has elevated bathymetry relative to surrounding oceanic crust, diverse and silica-rich rocks, and relatively thick and low-velocity crustal structure.”
The term Zealandia was first coined by geophysicist Professor Bruce Luyendyk in 1995.
Images: GSA Today
Source: GSA Today