South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Most of it is in the Southern Hemisphere. more...
Commonly referred to as part of the Americas, like North America, South America is named after Amerigo Vespucci, who was the first European to suggest that the Americas were not the East Indies, but a previously undiscovered New World.
South America has an area of 17,840,000 km² (6,890,000 sq mi), or almost 3.5% of the Earth's surface. As of 2005, its population was estimated at more than 371,000,000. South America ranks fourth in area (after Asia, Africa, and North America) and fifth in population (after Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America).
Geographically, South America is generally considered a continent forming the southern portion of the American landmass, south and east of the Panama Canal transecting the Isthmus of Panama. Depending on source, South and North America are sometimes considered a single continent or supercontinent, while constituent regions are infrequently considered subcontinents. Geopolitically, all of Panama – including the segment east of the Panama Canal in the isthmus – is often considered a part of North America alone and among the countries of Central America.
It became attached to North America only recently (geologically speaking) with the formation of the Isthmus of Panama some 3 million years ago, which resulted in the Great American Interchange. The Andes, likewise a comparatively young and seismically restless mountain range, run down the western edge of the continent; the land to the east of the Andes is largely tropical rain forest, the vast Amazon River basin. The continent also contains drier regions such as Patagonia and the extremely arid Atacama desert.
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