Until now, the earth has seven continents; Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia, Europe, Latin America and North America. But the latest news confirmed that scientists have now unveiled the latest mystery surrounding the eighth continent Zealandia.
Researchers have now argued that New Caledonia and New Zealand are not just an island chain, but a gigantic part of 5-million-square kilometer slab of continental crust (excluding Australia) – submerged under water.
Prominent geologist Luyendyk discovered the term Zealandia for the newly-discovered continent as early as 1995 because of its closer proximity to New Zealand region. It covers the regions of New Zealand, New Caledonia and a collection of crust that broke off from the ancient Gondwana region. According to an estimate, around 95 per cent of Zealandia is currently submerged underwater in the Southwest Pacific Ocean.
Criteria for a Land to Constitute as a Continent
- Land that is high from the sea floor.
- The presence of three types of rocks; Igneous, Metamorphic and sedimentary. Igneous rocks are formed out of volcanic eruption, metamorphic rocks are formed due to intense heat and pressure, and sedimentary rocks come to form out of erosion.
- Thicker crust surrounding the sea floor.
- Having a considerable size of an area.
Eventually, Luyedyk came to conclusion with the term Zealandia for the area that is expected to be continental with a collection of micro continents. The recent study suggests that Zealandia is a part of a unified region. The area is estimated to be even bigger than India. More research into the subject is still awaited.
Some More Interesting Facts about Zealandia
Zealandia consists of two plates; the Pacific plate and the Australian Plate. “I’m from California, and it has a plate boundary going through it. In millions of years, the western part will be up near Alaska. Does that make it not part of North America? No,” said Luyendyk.
Today, only five percent of the Zealandia land is visible. The process of classifying Zealandia as a continent could take a few more years after due observation by the geoscientists.
The country that will be hot topic among scientist is New Zealand. As it is still to be determined that what part of New Zealand will constitute Zealandia and what part will continue to be counted as a territory of New Zealand – the nation?
Zealandia covers parts of Norfolk Island, the Lord Howe Island group, New Zealand and Middleton reefs. It is believed that Zealandia broke away from Gondwana some 80 million years back. Over the last two decades, geologists worldwide are trying to include Zealandia as an independent and well-recognised Continent. If their proposal is approved, Zealandia is set to become the world’s eighth and smallest continent.