Is Zealandia the world's eighth continent
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Despite being almost entirely submerged by the sea, Zealandia could soon be recognized as a continent.

The seven continents - Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Europe, Australasia and Antarctica - have been recognized for centuries, but now it is looking increasingly likely that Zealandia - a landmass to the east of Australia - could also be added to the list.

Scientists have actually known about this new continent for years, but because 94% of it is underwater it has proven rather difficult to study.

Now though, researchers have published a new paper in the journal GSA Today which could lead to Zealandia being formally recognized as a distinct continent in its own right.

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

Covering a region of five million square kilometers, Zealandia was thought to have separated from Australia and then sank beneath the waves between 60 and 85 million years ago.

"This is a big piece of ground we're talking about, even if it is submerged," said co-author Nick Mortimer.