There may be eight continents after all.
Researchers say there is a submerged continent in the southwest Pacific Ocean, that should be considered an eighth continent. They’re calling it Zealandia in a nod to the largest part of the continent that is above water, New Zealand.
According to a paper on Zealandia published in the Geological Society of America, researchers say the continent is about two-thirds the size of Australia, measuring some five million square kilometers.
Only six percent, however, is above water, the majority of which is New Zealand, New Caledonia and some smaller islands.
Zealandia is seen in this map from GNS.
Traditionally, New Zealand has been associated with the continent of Australia.
While we normally think of continents as needing to be above water, researchers say the new continent does meet other requirements to the title, including elevation over the surrounding area, distinct geology, a well-defined area and crust thicker than the ocean floor, the BBC reports.
Researchers say Zealandia may have broken off from the supercontinent Gondwana between 60 and 85 million years ago, according to the Guardian newspaper.
According to the lead author of the study, Nick Mortimer, it will be hard to get Zealandia classified as a continent because it’s under water.
“If we could pull the plug on the oceans, it would be clear to everybody that we have mountain chains and a big, high-standing continent,” he told TVNZ. “What we hope is that Zealandia will appear on world maps, in schools, everywhere ...I think the revelation of a new continent is pretty exciting.”
Zealandia was first named in 1995 by American scientist Bruce Luyendyk.