There is an entire, submerged and unrecognised continent that has been hiding until now, according to scientists. New Zealand is sitting on top of the geological entity, most of which sits underneath the South Pacific and so can't be seen, according to a major new paper.
In a paper published in the Geological Society of America's Journal, researchers explain that Zealandia measures five million sq km which is about two thirds of neighbouring Australia.
The continent — known as Zealandia — is a distinct geological entity and meets all the criteria that are satisfied by the existing seven continents, the researchers said.
It is elevated above the area that surrounds it, has its own distinctive geology, the area that it takes up is well defined and has a crust thicker than the regular ocean floor — just like the seven masses we currently class as continents.
The new continent is 94% under water, according to the new paper. It is made up of three major landmasses: New Zealand's north and south islands, and New Caledonia to the north.
Scientists said that by classifying it as a continent they would be able to study how they are formed and break up, and that it wouldn't just be amatter of moving from a total of seven to eight. "The scientific value of classifying Zealandia as a continent is much more than just an extra name on a list," the researchers from New Zealand's official geological body GNS Science wrote.