South America covers about 17,840,000 square kilometers, almost 12% of Earth’s total land area. Among all the continents, South America ranks four in land area and ranks five in population. There are over 428,000,000 people live in South America as estimated in 2018.
The continent is located entirely in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere and with a small part situated in the Northern Hemisphere. South America is surrounded to the northwest by North America and Caribbean Sea, to the west by Pacific Ocean, to the north and east by Atlantic Ocean.
In some region of the world, especially in Portuguese and Spanish speaking regions, what schools taught student is that North America and South America are combined and considered as one continent called the Americas, and there are only six continents in the world. In this case, South America will be a subcontinent of Americas.
But rather than being treated as a subcontinent or called Latin America or Southern Cone, the reference to South America has increased a lot in the last few decades, due to the changing regional power structure, especially the rise of Brazil.
South America is made up of twelve sovereign states and a non-sovereign area, and currently Brazil is the most populous country with almost half of the continent’s total population.
The majority of population lives near the eastern and western coasts, while the far south and the continental interior of South America are sparsely populated.
The eastern part of South America contains high lands such as the Guiana Highlands, and vast lowlands where rivers flow through, such as Amazon river, Paraguay River and Orinoco River. On the other hand, the western part of the continent is dominated by the Andes Mountain which has the world’s longest mountain range that form a continuous highland that divide seven countries along the western edge of South America.
Between North America and South America, the most commonly accepted border would be the same border between Panama and Colombia which follows the Darien Mountains watershed and meets South America by the Isthmus of Panama.
Due to South America’s extreme geographic variation, it is rich in biomes and a major role in promoting high animal diversity. The continent spans four major climatic zones and contains four of the world’s only seventeen mega diverse countries: Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela. It also contains wide range of habitats that unparalleled animal species live in; many of them are unique such as jaguar, tapir, vicuna, piranha, anaconda and llama.
What we have described are just basic information from a few aspects, there is still a lot to discover. If you are curious about the world’s most bio-diverse continent, then take this South America QUIZ. We have 15 geography questions such as naming countries on a map, guessing the capitals of the South American Continent. Let’s see if you can score a 15/15.