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Scientists discover drowned Pacific Ocean continent Zealandia

This newly proposed continent is about 1.74 million square miles in size and 94 percent submerged. However, the continent protrudes above the ocean surface in the form of New Zealand and New Caledonia.

Feb 21, 2017 12:27 IST
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A group of scientists have claimed to discover a continent two-thirds the size of Australia beneath the south-west Pacific Ocean.

The discovery was recently reported in a paper titled Zealandia: Earth's Hidden Continent in the journal of the Geological Society of America.

This newly proposed continent is about 1.74 million square miles in size and 94 percent submerged. However, the continent protrudes above the ocean surface in the form of New Zealand and New Caledonia.

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Key highlights

Zealandia, also known as Tasmantis, is a nearly submerged continental fragment that sank after breaking away from Australia 60–85 million years ago.

The continent had separated from Antarctica between 85 and 130 million years ago.

It may have been completely submerged about 23 million years ago, and 93 per cent of it remains submerged beneath the Pacific Ocean. However, it is still unknown how strongly Bollons Seamount remains connected to the continent.

The continent supports substantial inshore fisheries and contains New Zealand's largest gas field, near Taranaki.

During glacial periods, more of Zealandia became a terrestrial rather than a marine environment.

The continent was originally thought to have no native land mammal fauna. However, a recent discovery in 2006 of a fossil mammal jaw from the Miocene in the Otago region shows otherwise.

Zealandia has high elevation compared to the ocean crust. It has certain geological components, including a crust thicker than ocean crust. The continent also has well-defined limits around an area large enough to be considered a continent rather than a fragment.

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