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Table of Contents
South America is a subcontinent of the Americas. It has a land area of 17.8 million square km. The continent is composed of 12 sovereign countries with several island territories. Ten of the twelve independent countries from this continent are part of Latin America.
See the fact file below for more information on South America, or alternatively, you can download our 27-page South America worksheet pack to utilize within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
Introducing the Continent of South America
- South America is the 4th largest of the seven continents on planet Earth.
- South America’s latitude and longitude lie between 14.6048° S and 59.0625° W.
- In the northwest, South America is joined to North America by the Isthmus of Panama.
- The South Pacific Ocean lies on the west, and the North Atlantic and South Atlantic oceans are on the east.
- South America is separated from Antarctica in the South by the body of water called Drake Passage.
- South America has an area of 6,890,000 square miles (17,840,000 square kilometers).
- There are sixteen countries and territories in South America, with a total population estimated at more than 434 million.
- The first evidence of humans in South America dates back to about 9000 BCE, with proof of many civilizations on this continent, such as the Inca, Chavin, Moche, Arawak, and Carib civilizations.
- The 15th century was a period of exploration. The two most powerful countries during that time were Portugal and Spain, who signed the “Treaty of Tordesillas” with blessings from the Pope, declaring any new land discovered would be owned exclusively by these two countries.
- Christopher Columbus left Spain in May 1498 and planted the Spanish flag in Venezuela, South America, on August 1, 1498.
- The Spanish colonies in South, Central, and North America declared independence from Spanish rule in the early nineteenth century.
- About 300 million years ago, all the continents we now know existed as a single continent called Pangea.
- In the Jurassic Period, over 180 million years ago, the western half of Africa and South America, called Gondwana, separated from the eastern half comprising Madagascar, India, Australia, and Antarctica.
- By 160 million years ago, the continents had begun to drift to their present locations.
- The South Atlantic Ocean opened about 140 million years ago as Africa separated from South America.
- The coastlines of South America and Africa actually match because these two continents were once joined together.
- The South American continent also includes islands, most of which belong to countries on the continent.
- South America contains many diverse regions and climates, divided into three physical regions, highlands/mountains, river basins, and coastal plains.
- At 6,959 m (22,831 ft), Aconcagua, in the Andes mountain range, is the highest mountain in the Americas and the second-highest mountain in the world.
Climate, Flora, and Fauna
- The vast continent of South America has a much warmer climate compared to North America.
- The three types of biomes found on this continent are grassland, rainforest, and savanna.
- The driest place in the world, the Atacama Desert, is located in Chile, South America.
- South America’s huge areas of grasslands are the Pampas in Argentina and Uruguay and Llanos in Colombia and Venezuela.
- The Amazon rainforest receives torrential rainfall, up to 3,000 mm per annum.
- Approximately 40 percent of the plant and animal species around the globe can be found in South America.
- South America has tropical rainforests, extremely dry deserts, and alpine tundra.
- South America has more plant species than Africa but fewer than North America.
- Some of the most distinctive animal species in the world are found on this continent due to its diverse range of habitats.
- Fauna includes over 3000 species of birds, numerous species of fishes, tapirs, deer, bears, rabbits, amphibious salamanders, frogs and toads, and many insects, spiders, crabs, and millipedes.
- Many South American species are found nowhere else in the world.
- South America has the richest array of butterflies on any continent.
Unique to South America
- The world’s largest stadium, the Maracana Stadium, can be found in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
- The Christ the Redeemer statue, located at the peak of the 700-meter (2,300 ft) Corcovado mountain and overlooking Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, is 98 ft (30 m) high and has been voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
- The Amazon River, which stretches some 4,000 miles (6,400 km) across equatorial South America, has the biggest volume of water of any other river in the world.
- Angel Falls, in Venezuela, is the world’s tallest uninterrupted waterfall. Its height is 979 m with a plunge of 807 m.
- The largest flying bird of prey, the Andean condor, is only found on the continent of South America.
- South America is the only continent where one can find pink dolphins. The Amazon river dolphin that lives in freshwater and is found throughout much of the Amazon and Orinoco river basins is also known as the pink river dolphin.
- South America is home to the world’s largest snake. The green anaconda, which can reach lengths of 9 m (30 ft), lives in the Amazon rainforests and swamps of Brazil.
- The world’s largest open-pit copper mine, Chuquicamata, is in Chile’s Atacama Desert.
Other Interesting Facts
- Spanish is the official language in the majority of countries in South America; however, Portuguese is the official language of Brazil.
- With an area of 587.3039 sq mi (1,521.11 km2), São Paulo is listed as the world’s third-largest city with more than 27 million residents.
- A large number of dinosaur fossils have been excavated in South America in the last 30 years.
- Brazil has abundant grazing land for grass-fed beef, and the largest beef-producing company in the world is located in Brazil.
- The South American continent is rich in agricultural products such as cocoa, coffee, corn, wheat, and soybeans.
- South America is relatively rich in mineral resources, including copper, iron ore, nickel, and bauxite.
- In order of population (2022), South America’s sixteen countries and territories are Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Venezuela, Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, and the Falkland Islands.
South America Worksheets
This fantastic bundle includes everything you need to know about South America across 27 in-depth pages. These ready-to-use South America worksheets are perfect for teaching students about South America, a subcontinent of the Americas. It has a land area of 17.8 million square km. The continent is composed of 12 sovereign countries with several island territories.
Complete List of Included Worksheets
- South America Facts
- Name the Country
- Languages in South America
- Capital Cities in South America
- Population of South America
- Unique Species of South America
- Civilizations in South America
- South American Currencies
- The Bodies of Water
- Self-Reflection on Amazon River
Frequently Asked Questions
What is South America famous for?
South America consists of 16 countries and territories, each with many well-known sites and attractions. Some of these are the annual Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, many sunny beaches, high mountains, hot deserts, and rich cultural and exciting foods.
How did South America get its name?
Both South America and North America are named after a 15th-century Italian merchant and explorer named Amerigo Vespucci. Vespucci was the first European to state that the Americas were not part of the East Indies.
What is South America’s largest city?
South America’s largest city is São Paulo, in Brazil. It has a population in excess of 12 million, and besides being Brazil’s largest city, it is also Brazil’s richest city.
What is the best place to visit in South America?
Machu Picchu is one of the most intriguing destinations in South America. It is an Incan citadel situated high in the Andes Mountains in Peru and a popular tourist attraction.
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Link will appear as South America Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, November 14, 2018
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.