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South America

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Photo Courtesy of NASA

South America is a continent, with most of its area in the Southern Hemisphere. South America is situated between the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean.

Commonly referred to as part of America, 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 17,821,601 km² (6,880,959 sq mi), or almost 3.5% of the Earth's surface. As of 2005, its population was estimated at more than 371,200,000. South America ranks fourth in area (after Asia, Africa, and North America) and fifth in population (after Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America).

The classification of its geographic location is subject to dispute, as in some non-English speaking regions of the world, the Americas are a continent and North, Central and South America are its subcontinents. In English-speaking and certain other regions of the world, North and South America are considered to be continents and their union is referred to as the supercontinent of the Americas. The classification given to South America, as a subcontinent in a continent or a continent in a supercontinent, depends entirely on regional preferences.

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.

The region of South America also includes various islands, most of which belong to countries on the continent. The Caribbean territories are grouped with North America. The South American nations that border the Caribbean Sea – including Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana – are also known as Caribbean South America.

Major natural resources are copper, iron ore, tin and oil. The many resources in South America have become useful around the world, but they have failed to diversify their economies. This has lead to major highs and lows in their economy causing instability.

South America is home to many interesting species of animals including parrots, tarantulas, snakes, and mammals.

The largest country in South America by far, in both area and population, is Brazil followed by Argentina. Regions in South America include the Andean States, the Guianas, the Southern Cone, and Eastern South America.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "South America".