8 Continents? 5 Most Incredible Discoveries of the Week

Including a possible way to detect autism in infants
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 17, 2017 9:32 PM CST
Updated Feb 18, 2017 5:30 AM CST
8 Continents? 5 Most Incredible Discoveries of the Week
Zealandia can be seen next to Australia in this map.   (Geological Society of America)

A finding that might require geography textbooks to be rewritten and a potential way to spot autism much earlier than is currently possible were among the big discoveries this week:

  • Scientists Say They Found an 8th Continent: 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: Zealandia. Only three segments of it currently peek above the ocean, so we can all be excused for not noticing it earlier.

  • New Hope for Identifying Autism in Babies: Promising new research may make it possible to detect autism in babies before symptoms appear. Scientists scanned the brains of infants with autistic siblings considered at high risk of developing the disorder themselves, and were able to predict with 80% accuracy in the first year which ones would go to show autistic symptoms. Being able to do so on a large scale could have huge implications.
  • If Dad Smokes, He May Pass an Unwanted Trait to Kids: When fathers smoke, their future children may be born with a higher tolerance of not just tobacco but drugs of all kinds, a new study on mice suggests. That raises a disturbing possibility in regard to life-saving drugs such as chemo.
  • Ebola Outbreak Fueled by Tiny Minority: Scientists are investigating minorities, but it's not how it sounds. So-called "super-spreaders" are a small group of people who, for whatever reason, turn out to be the major driver behind the spread of diseases. Now scientists have found a prime example in Africa's Ebola epidemic: Just 3% of sufferers were responsible for 61% of infections, and two specific age ranges are at play.
  • 'Fierce' Carnivore Seen in Iowa After 150-Year Absence: It's no Bigfoot sighting, but it'll do. A fisher—a cousin of the weasel known for its fierceness—has been documented in Iowa for the first time in 150 years. Scattered sightings were reported in the state over the years, but there was no proof. Until one striking photo emerged.
Click to read about more discoveries. (More discoveries stories.)

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