Earth Has a New Continent Called ‘Zealandia’, Study Reveals
It was hiding in plain sight.
Kids are frequently taught that seven continents exist: Africa, Asia, Antarctica, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America.
Geologists, who look at the rocks (and tend to ignore the humans), group Europe and Asia into its own supercontinent – Eurasia – making for a total of six geologic continents.
But according to a new study of Earth’s crust, there’s a seventh geologic continent called ‘Zealandia’, and it has been hiding under our figurative noses for millennia.
The 11 researchers behind the study argue that New Zealand and New Caledonia aren’t merely an island chain.
Instead, they’re both part of a single, 4.9-million-square kilometre (1.89 million-square-mile) slab of continental crust that’s distinct from Australia.
“This is not a sudden discovery but a gradual realisation; as recently as 10 years ago we would not have had the accumulated data or confidence in interpretation to write this paper,” they wrote in GSA Today, a Geological Society of America journal.
Ten of the researchers work for organisations or companies within the new continent; one works for a university in Australia.
But other geologists are almost certain to accept the research team’s continent-size conclusions, says Bruce Luyendyk, a geophysicist at the University of California, Santa Barbara (he wasn’t involved in the study).