Every kid in the U.S. takes a geography class in elementary school. For many, many decades, children were taught that there were seven continents, Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Oceania. Every map in the world reflects this. This is what students are taught using the maps and the globes that are in their classroom. But now that things are changing, our views have changed a bit. Scientists say there’s a secret continent that’s been hiding in plain sight for millions of years.
What Is a Continent?
Continents are immense landmasses divided from one another by oceans. This is the definition, but it is a bit flawed. The majority of the continents are completely detached from the other continents. When describing a continent, it should be mentioned that they aren’t always completely disconnected from different continents. The only two continents that are on their own and not connected to any other landmass is Oceania and Antarctica. Most other continents are connected in some way. For example, South America and North America are joined by a thin section of territory that is known as the Isthmus of Panama.
North and South America
The Isthmus of Panama hasn’t been the only connection between the two continents. There was a time where the two were divided by waters called the Central American Seaway. It took three million years for the Isthmus of Panama to join the two landmasses together. This made it possible for animals to move between the two continents. Back then, the migration area was known as the Great American Interchange. With no real separation, South America and North America are often known as The Americas.
It is challenging to define Europe as its own continent. This is because it is connected to Asia, and there aren’t any real geographical divisions between the two. When put together, the landmass is known as Eurasia.
The boundaries that define the continents are trivial from a geographical standpoint. This is made clear when you think of the countries that are considered to be transcontinental. This means that they are located on more than one continent. A few examples of transcontinental countries that straddle both Europe and Asia include Russia, Georgia, and Turkey.
Eurasia Is Also a Poor Definition
Some believe that the term, Eurasia, isn’t the best definition for the landmass. Asia is joined to Africa by the Isthmus of Suez. This section of land, which is about 75-miles across, is found in modern-day Egypt. Since Egypt spans both Asia and Africa, this area too could be considered a transcontinental country.
The Isthmus Of Suez
The Isthmus of Suez stands between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. There is also a route of water connecting the two seas. It was built between 1859 and 1869 but isn’t sufficient enough to define Africa and Asia as separate landmasses. The canals are manmade and small, which puts an end to that theory. In order for this to be an official separation, the canal would need to have been naturally made.
When you put together the landmass that makes up Europe, Asia, and Africa, it could be called, Afro-Eurasia. This portion of land makes up about 50 percent of the land on the planet. If you consider the number of people living on Afro-Eurasia, it helps you to even more see the significance of the landmass. There are around 6 billion humans in this area. This translates to 86 percent of the entire Earth’s population.
Four True Continents
If Afro-Asia is just one continent and South America and North America are only America, the traditional seven continents become just four. Using this way of thinking, the Earth is broken up into continents America, Afro-Eurasia, Oceania, and Antarctica. This is far different than what we were taught when we were children.
What Does the Future Hold?
Many people wonder what the future will hold for our planet. Will more landmasses be discovered? Will continents become connected as the polar ice caps melt, and the ocean levels rise? It is tough to tell what the future will hold. Because we have technically gone from seven continents to just four, there is a good chance that we will see some more changes in the future. Only time will tell what will happen to our planet next. It has taken millions of years to change thus far, so don’t expect a significant change too quickly. It could be quite a while before the geography curriculum changes, and students are taught that there are just four continents. This hasn’t even been officially declared yet, but it is clear that our world is not what we once thought.