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Scientists Discover New Continent Called 'Zealandia'

If your ultimate travel goal is to hit up every continent in the world, your list might have just gotten a little bit longer.

That's because researchers are now arguing there's a new continent in town — but it hasn't just appeared out of thin air.

Instead, researchers from New Zealand are making the case it is part of a previously unrecognized continent that should be called "Zealandia."

In a paper published in the Geological Society of America's journal, GSA Today, scientists argued Zealandia met all the criteria needed for a land mass to be a continent.

There's only one problem — almost the entire thing is underwater.

GSA Today

The researchers, mostly from the official New Zealand research body GNS Science, said 94 percent of Zealandia is submerged, but that doesn't matter too much, and it's more accurate to describe the area as a continent.

The paper states,

The identification of Zealandia as a geological continent, rather than a collection of continental islands, fragments, and slices, more correctly represents the geology of this part of Earth.

New Zealand, recognized as part of the continent usually referred to as Oceania or Australasia, is about a 13-hour flight away from the US' west coast.

Researchers said Zealandia has only three land masses: New Zealand's North and South Islands and New Caledonia.

GSA Today

Despite that, it should be a continent as it has elevation above the surrounding area, distinctive geology, a well-defined area and a thicker crust than the ocean floor, they said.

The paper reads,

The scientific value of classifying Zealandia as a continent is much more than just an extra name on a list. That a continent can be so submerged yet unfragmented makes it (useful) in exploring the cohesion and breakup of continental crust.

Lead author Nick Mortimer wrote,

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.

There is no scientific body that formally recognizes continents, but Mortimer hopes Zealandia will one day be commonly recognized as a continent.

Citations: GSA Today