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Renewed Push For Zealandia To Be Recognized As The Eighth Continent

Scientists say a huge landmass almost entirely submerged in the southwest Pacific qualifies as a continent, and have made a renewed push for it to be recognized as the eighth continent in the world.

A 4.9 Mkm2 region of the southwest Pacific Ocean, known as Zealandia, is made up of continental crust. The region has elevated bathymetry relative to surrounding oceanic crust, diverse and silica-rich rocks, and relatively thick and low-velocity crustal structure.

Its isolation from Australia and large area support its definition as a continent, researchers said in a paper published in the Geological Society of America's Journal.

Zealandia was formerly part of Gondwana. Today it is 94 percent submerged, mainly as a result of widespread Late Cretaceous crustal thinning preceding supercontinent breakup and consequent isostatic balance.

The identification of Zealandia as a geological continent, rather than a collection of continental islands, fragments, and slices, more correctly represents the geology of this part of Earth. Zealandia provides a fresh context in which to investigate processes of continental rifting, thinning, and breakup, says New Zealand geologist Nick Mortimer, the main author of the article.

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