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Zealandia - Earth’s Lost 8th Continent

Scientists confirmed the existence of an eighth continent, called Zealandia, under New Zealand and the surrounding ocean in 2017 which disappeared under the Pacific Ocean. Because 94% of Zealandia's 2 million square miles are underwater, mapping the continent is challenging. Researchers from GNS Science in New Zealand have announced that they mapped the shape and size of the Zealandia continent in unprecedented detail.

How Zealandia evolved?

Gondwana formed when Earth's ancient supercontinent, Pangea, split into two fragments.

  1. Laurasia in the north became Europe, Asia, and North America.
  2. Gondwana in the south dispersed to form modern-day Africa, Antarctica, South America, and Australia.

Further, Geologic forces continued to rearrange these landmasses, and Zealandia was forced under the waves about 30 million to 50 million years after it broke off Gondwana as the largest tectonic plate — the Pacific Plate — slowly subducted beneath it.

Latest findings:

  1. Zealandia's area is nearly 2 million square miles (5 million square kilometers) — about half the size of Australia.
  2. But only 6% of the continent is above sea level. That part underpins New Zealand's north and south islands and the island of New Caledonia.
  3. The latest map depicts coastlines, territorial limits, and the names of major undersea features. The map is part of a global initiative to map the planet's entire ocean floor by 2030.
  4. This map also reveals where Zealandia sits across various tectonic plates, which of those plates are being pushed under the other in a process known as subduction, and how quickly that movement is happening.

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