We’ve all been taught since grade school that Earth has seven continents. With that, a theory of Pangea was even raised. However, a hidden crust has been recently found by a group of researchers around New Zealand, a neighbor of the continent, Australia. They argued that this hidden region should be designated as a new continent. They dubbed this massive new continent, Zealandia.
This idea of a potential continent has been previously theorized by Geophysicist Bruce Luyendyk, coining its name in 1995. Hence, researchers have dedicated 10 years of study to prove such.
Specifically, sea-floor samples showed that Zealandia consists of light continental crust instead of dark volcanic rocks making up nearby underwater plateaus. Moreover, rather than a group of continental islands and fragments, researchers also found the area to be structurally intact with a large continental crust enough to be separated and be officially called a continent. The argument even goes as there is actually no widely accepted definition of a continent, with geographers and geologists having different answers. For instance, geographers consider Europe and Asia as separate continents, whereas geologists believe it to be a single landmass of Eurasia.
“One of the main benefits of this article is that it draws attention to the arbitrary and inconsistent use of such a fundamental term as continent,” says Brendan Murphy, a geologist at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Canada.
This new continent stretches from near Australia’s northeastern coast past the islands of New Zealand and calls a 1.8 million square mile land mass. It also includes New Caledonia, along with several other territories and island groups.
Despite the argument, this study could generally help biogeographers to better understand the endemic plants and animals of New Zealand. It’s also interesting how mysterious this planet still is despite of years of research and staying here.