Every elementary school student knows there are seven continents. Or are there? After more than 20 years of investigation, researchers now say there is an eighth continent: Zealandia. The Christian Science Monitor reports Zealandia is 1.9 million square miles—about two-thirds the size of Australia—but is 94% underwater, so we can all be excused for not noticing it sooner. Only three segments of Zealandia peek above the ocean: New Caledonia and the North and South islands of New Zealand. That's why researchers, in a study published in GSA Today, say it's currently seen as "islands, fragments, and slices."
While no one is in charge of determining what is or isn't a continent, researchers say Zealandia checks all the boxes: It has obvious boundaries and a wide range of geology, its crust is thicker than that of the ocean floor, and it has a higher elevation than the areas around it. "If we could pull the plug on the oceans, it would be clear to everybody that we have ... a big, high-standing continent," Phys.org quotes the study's lead author, Nick Mortimer, as saying. Researchers say classifying Zealandia as a continent would not only more accurately reflect the situation, but it could potentially teach us more about how continents move and change. Mortimer says they want Zealandia to "appear on world maps, in schools, everywhere." (Read more continents stories.)