Scientists are learning more about Zealandia, the submerged “lost continent” that lies beneath the ocean surrounding New Zealand, after drilling deep into the landmass during a research expedition.
One of their main discoveries is that Zealandia, which currently lies about two-thirds of a mile below the ocean surface, was not always that far down, according to the National Science Foundation, which supported the expedition. The scientists know that because of the fossils that came up with the sediment they had drilled — certain marine creatures will live only at specific depths, so the existence of their remains speaks to how far beneath the surface the landmass was at the time the creatures lived.
“More than 8,000 specimens were studied, and several hundred fossil species were identified,” co-chief scientist Jerry Dickens, from Rice University, said in the NSF statement. “The discovery of microscopic shells of organisms that lived in warm shallow seas, and of spores and pollen from land plants, reveal that the geography and climate of Zealandia were dramatically different in the past.”
The scientists aboard the ship JOIDES Resolution drilled thousands of feet of sediment cores — samples whose vertically stacked layers represent deeper and deeper dives into the history of the planet and thus can show experts how conditions like climate and volcanic activity evolved over time. The drilling went deep enough to reach 70 million years into the past, shortly after Zealandia separated from Antarctica and then Australia. With the exception of the islands of New Zealand, it is now underwater and covered in mud.
Their work was done through International Ocean Discovery…