Scientists have renewed efforts to get Zealandia - a land mass that is 94 per cent submerged under water, recognized as a new and eighth continent.
In a paper published in the Geological Society of America’s journal, GSA Today, researchers said that Zealandia has the requisite features for constituting a continent.
Zealandia is about two-thirds the size of Australia, researchers said.
Zealandia covers nearly 5 million sq km, of which 94 per cent is under water, and encompasses not only New Zealand but also New Caledonia, Norfolk Island, the Lord Howe Island group and Elizabeth and Middleton reefs.
The area, about the same size as the Indian subcontinent, is believed to have broken away from Gondwana -- the immense landmass that once encompassed Australia -- and sank between 60 and 85 million years ago.
"This is a big piece of ground we're talking about, even if it is submerged," said Nick Mortimer, a New Zealand geologist who co-authored the paper.
American scientist Bruce Luyendyk first named the land mass Zealandia in 1995, and geologists have been arguing for its recognition ever since.
Zealandia will be the world's seventh and smallest continent, after Eurasia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, and Australia.