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A new crop of lost continents might change the way we draw the world map

Traces of Mauritia (Representational map) Photograph: (WION)

WION Delhi, India Feb 20, 2017, 01.49 PM (IST) Zeba Khan

The world might change as we know it, with this discovery. 

Geologists are working to uncover hidden pieces of land under water and it is suggested that there might be two new continents to the already existing list of seven. Geologists who have found evidence to support their existence, have named them Mauritia and Zealandia, in two separate discoveries. 

The first continent Mauritia, is in the Indian Ocean, beneath the island of Mauritius’ inactive volcanoes. Dr. Lewis D. Ashwal, geologist at University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in South Africa, published the study on Mauritia in a journal titled Nature Communications. Buried under several layers of volcanic material under the seabed, the fragments of what could have been a continent, is Mauritia. 

Traces of Mauritia (Representational map) (WION)

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In the research paper he was cited, “It’s a continent in the geological sense, not in the geographical one. It would be better to refer to Mauritia as a continental fragment or microcontinent rather than as a lost continent.”

While researching, Dr. Ashwal found sparkly minerals called zircon on the island nation of Mauritius. Zircon contains radioactive material that allows geologists to easily date it back to billions of years. It was then found that Mauritius is resting on a land that has existed for more than three billion years, much older than any oceanic crust. According to the study, a volcanic eruption from the Earth’s mantle pushed zircon flakes from the crust onto the surface of the island.

Zealandia is the second continent recently found. According to a report published in the journal of the Geological Society of America, this lost continent is located on the southwest Pacific Ocean, surrounding the current land mass of New Zealand and its adjoining islands. Submerged under the Pacific Ocean, it is about half the size of the present Australian continent. 

Traces of Zealandia (Representational map) (WION)

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Earlier thought to be fragmented, the latest satellite-based gravity maps of the ancient seafloor show that the entire region is a whole ancient continent. Geologists in the previous century had found granite from sub-antarctic islands near New Zealand and metaphormic rocks on New Caledonia that were indicative of continental geology. Most thus believe that had there been advanced technology back then, Zealandia would have been identified as one of Earth's continents.

Zealandia is a geological continent rather than a micro-continent or continental fragment, according to the study. In lieu to geo-political arrangements, some parts of Zealandia predominantly New Zealand is grouped under Oceania. The area includes the Australian continent, New Zealand and various islands in the Pacific Ocean that are not included in the seven-continent model.

Watch: The Lost Continents

 

Several geologists have given Zealandia the status of a continent but there is no official recognition by the New Zealand government. If included, it would be the world’s eighth and smallest continent. 

(WION)

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