The world region of Oceania covers an area of 8,525,989 square km. 40 million people live in Oceania which makes it the second least populated continent (if Oceania is regarded as a continent). Oceania’s countries range from highly developed ones like New Zealand and Australia to those struggling to strengthen their economies like Tuvalu and Kiribati. With the exception of a few countries and islands like Australia, New Zealand, and New Guinea, most of Oceania features tiny island countries or large archipelagos with scattered islands. Although there are several definitions of Oceania, the region is generally considered to be made up of four smaller sub-regions. These are as follows:
A term that is difficult to define precisely, Australasia was originally coined in a 1756 publication by the French writer Charles de Brosses. The term literally means "south of Asia” referring to all land that lies to the south of mainland Asia in its widest sense. However, the definition of Australasia has been modified over the years and in its strictest sense, includes Australia, New Zealand, and islands neighboring these two countries in the Pacific Ocean. The islands of New Guinea is considered by some to be a part of Australasia but by others to be in Melanesia. Most of Australasia is located on the Indo-Australian Plate.
Melanesia, another part of Oceania, includes the island of New Guinea and the island nation of Fiji and the area in between these two islands. It thus refers to the area to the north and northeast of Australia from the Arafura Sea to Fiji. Melanesia has a land area of about 1 million square km and includes about 2000 islands. The four independent nations of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands are part of Melanesia. A part of Indonesia-occupied New Guinea island and the French collectivity of New Caledonia are also located in Melanesia.
A sub-region of Oceania, Micronesia is located in the western Pacific Ocean. The region features thousands of islands including four main archipelagos and several small scattered islands. Five independent nations and three US territories are part of Micronesia. The independent countries include Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Palau, Nauru, and the Federated States of Micronesia. The latter must not be confused with the entire region but is an archipelagic nation in Micronesia. The region shares a cultural heritage with Polynesia and Melanesia. People have lived here for thousands of years and the indigenous inhabitants of this region are called Micronesians. The first documented visit by a European to Micronesia was in 1521 when Ferdinand Magellan visited the Marianas in Micronesia.
The Oceanian sub-region of Polynesia comprises of over 1,000 islands in the central and southern part of the Pacific Ocean. The indigenous inhabitants of this region are known as the Polynesians. These people are expert sailors and navigators and share common cultural heritage.