Scientists Dub Zealandia the World's Newest Continent
Feb 17 2017 12:00 AM EST
Scientists confirmed that another continent exists in the South Pacific.
Zealandia, coined by Geophysicist Bruce Luyendyk, is home to New Zealand and several other islands.
Named Zealandia, the continent now joins the other seven continents: Africa, Asia, Antarctica, Australia, Europe, North America and South America. A word of caution, however, before assuming we now have eight continents. Geologists might still say we still have only seven continents as many consider Europe and Asia to be one continent, known as Eurasia.
Previously, Australia and New Zealand were thought to share the continent called Australasia. However, the recent 10-year research project conducted by 11 researchers determined that they are, in fact, on separate continents.
New Zealand now calls a 1.8 million square mile land mass known as Zealandia home. This new continent also includes New Caledonia, along with several other territories and island groups.
"This is not a sudden discovery but a gradual realization; as recently as 10 years ago we would not have had the accumulated data or confidence in interpretation to write this paper," the authors wrote for the March/April 2017 issue of GSA Today, a Geological Society of America journal.
The researchers used recent and detailed satellite-based elevation, along with gravity maps of the ancient seafloor, to show that Zealandia is part of one unified region, a criterium necessary in determining whether a land mass is a continent.
The release of the study comes just a week after scientists found a 3-billion-year-old "lost continent" beneath the Indian Ocean.