What? Which Continent is that?

I picked up a DVD titled, “Animal Passport” from Redbox the other day to watch with my kids. It is a documentary profiling various animals in different continents. With the discussion about continent we have opened a can of worms. There is a lot of confusion about what makes a continent. There are currently five models (as per Wikipedia) to describe continents. The following is a list of models from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continent. While none of this discusses the sixth model which names Oceania to hold the countries of Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea and the other sundry islands or the seventh one which substitutes Australasia for Oceania which includes  Australia (as we know it) and New Zealand (Note: Asia is not included in Australasia even though the name contains asia).

Color-coded map showing the various continents. Similar shades exhibit areas that may be consolidated or subdivided.

7 continents
 North America South America Antarctica Africa Europe Asia Australia
6 continents
North America South America Antarctica Africa Eurasia Australia
6 continents
America Antarctica Africa Europe Asia Australia
5 continents
America Antarctica Africa Eurasia Australia
4 continents
America Antarctica Afro-Eurasia Australia

Australia – the continent that started this whole discussion seems to hold only Australia by itself if you go by Model 1 (7 continents) – the model I learnt growing up and one which is based on the logic of dividing continents by continental shelf. So the logical question is what happens to New Zealand? It turns out that this belongs to the continent of Zealandia (because it is in a different continental shelf). But, wait a second, where is Zealandia?, you ask. Unfortunately, Zealandia is a submerged continent, so you cannot see it. Convenient, eh!

So it appears the concept of continent is different depending on which continent you are from 🙂

The seven-continent model is usually taught in Western Europe, Northern Europe, Central Europe, Southeastern Europe, China and most English-speaking countries. The six-continent combined-Eurasia model is preferred by the geographic community, Russia, Eastern Europe, and Japan. The six-continent combined-America model is taught in Latin America, and some parts of Europe including Greece, Portugal and Spain. This model may be taught to include only the five inhabited continents (excluding Antarctica)”

If that was fun, I will let you look up the idea behind Super Continent which now only has one member, “Eurasia”.