Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - FEATURES/APPRECIATION -

Sci­en­tists say they have iden­ti­fied a new con­ti­nent, and called it Zealandia.

In a new pa­per, a team of 11 ge­ol­o­gists have pro­posed that a re­gion of the Pa­cific Ocean, lo­cated east of Aus­tralia and con­tain­ing New Zealand and New Cale­do­nia, be con­sid­ered a con­ti­nent in its own right.

Ge­o­graph­i­cally speak­ing, there are cur­rently six rec­og­nized con­ti­nents: Africa Antarc­tica, Aus­tralia, Eura­sia, North Amer­ica, and South Amer­ica. Eura­sia is the ge­o­graph­i­cal land­mass that in­cludes Europe and 4.9 mil­lion square kilo­me­tres, Zealandia would be Earth’s small­est con­ti­nent.

It is also the ‘youngest, thinnest, and most sub­merged’ of the con­ti­nents, with 94 per­cent of the land­mass sub­merged in wa­ter, the ge­ol­o­gists wrote.

In the pa­per, ti­tled ‘Zealandia: Earth’s Hid­den Con­ti­nent,’ the ge­ol­o­gists ar­gue that Zealandia has all four at­tributes nec­es­sary to be con­sid­ered a con­ti­nent.

Those at­tributes in­clude ‘high el­e­va­tion rel­a­tive to re­gions floored by oceanic crust,’ as well as the pres­ence of three types of rocks (ig­neous, or vol­canic; meta­mor­phic, or cre­ated by heat and pres­sure; and sed­i­men­tary, or cre­ated by ero­sion).the other at­tributes are a thicker, less dense crust than the sur­round­ing ocean floor, and an area large enough to dis­tin­guish it from the cat­e­gory of mi­cro­con­ti­nent.

‘The sci­en­tific value of clas­si­fy­ing Zealandia as a con­ti­nent is much more than just an ex­tra name on a list,’ the sci­en­tists wrote.

‘That a con­ti­nent can be so sub­merged yet un­frag­mented makes it a useful and thought­pro­vok­ing geo­dy­namic end mem­ber in ex­plor­ing the co­he­sion and breakup of con­ti­nen­tal crust.’

All but one of the 11 re­searchers be­hind the pa­per rep­re­sent or­gan­i­sa­tions based in New Zealand and New Cale­do­nia. The eleventh sci­en­tist is based in Aus­tralia.

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