Scientists, after employing different research techniques, have recently found out that there is a new continent on Earth named ‘Zealandia’. They claim the 'continent' had been hidden and virtually invisible to the human eye for a millenia, until now.
The research carried out by some 11 scientists makes the case for the eighth continent by establishing that New Zealand and New Caledonia aren't merely an island chain but part of 4.9 million square kilometer earth crust that is different from Australia.
While it has always been said and taught that Earth has seven continents, namely Africa, Asia, Antarctica, Australia, Europe, North America and South America, scientists argue that this continent is not a new piece of land but it has been around for ages.
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"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," they said in the journal GSA Today.
Besides the scholars involved, other learned researchers have also firmly accepted their findings. Bruce Luyendyk, a geophysicist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said,
"These people here are A-list earth scientists," Bruce said.
"I think they have put together a solid collection of evidence that's really thorough. I don't see that there's going to be a lot of pushback, except maybe around the edges," he added.
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Funnily enough, the of the new continent is not something novel; Bruce Luyendyk had coined the word Zealandia in 1995. The scholar also stated that he ever used the word to describe the continent, but in fact used it to describe New Zealand and New Caledonia.
"The reason I came up with this term is out of convenience," Bruce says.
"They're pieces of the same thing when you look at Gondwana. So I thought, 'why do you keep naming this collection of pieces as different things?'"
The researchers who established that Zealandia is the new continent argued in their work that satellite data has shown that Zealandia is not broken up as a collection of microcontinents but as a unified slab.
"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 un-fragmented, makes it a useful and thought-provoking geodynamic end member in exploring the cohesion and breakup of continental crust."
Luyendyk believes the distinction won’t likely end up as a scientific curiosity, however, and speculated that it may eventually have larger consequences.
"The economic implications are clear and come into play: What's part of New Zealand and what's not part of New Zealand?" he says.
The article originally appeared on Science Alert
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