South America is a continent crossed by the equator, with most of its area in the Southern Hemisphere. South America is situated between the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. It became attached to North America only recently, geologically speaking, with the formation of the Isthmus of Panama. 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.
South America ranks fourth in area, after Asia, Africa and North America. It ranks fifth in population, after Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America.
Physical map of South America
It is thought to have been first inhabited by people crossing the Bering Land Bridge, now the Bering strait, though there are also suggestions of migration from the southern Pacific Ocean.
From the 1530s, the indigenous inhabitants of South America were subjugated by European invaders, first from Spain, later from Portugal, who divided it into colonies. In the course of the 19th century, these colonies won their independence.
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.
The largest country in South America by far, in both area and population, is Brazil. Regions in South America include the Andean States, the Guyana Highlands, the Southern Cone, and Eastern South America.
Political divisions of South America
A satellite composite image of South America
(Not included in the table are South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands which have no permanent inhabitants, only temporary visitors to research stations.)
|Name ||Area (kmē) ||Population |
|Population density |
|Argentina ||2,766,890 ||37,812,817 ||14 |
|Bolivia ||1,098,580 ||8,445,134 ||7.7 |
|Brazil ||8,511,965 ||176,029,560 ||21 |
|Chile ||756,950 ||15,498,930 ||20 |
|Colombia ||1,138,910 ||41,008,227 ||36 |
|Ecuador ||283,560 ||13,447,494 ||47 |
|Falkland Islands (UK) ||12,173 ||2,967 ||0.24 |
|French Guiana (Fr.) ||91,000 ||182,333 ||2.0 |
|Guyana ||214,970 ||698,209 ||3.2 |
|Paraguay ||406,750 ||5,884,491 ||14 |
|Peru ||1,285,220 ||27,949,639 ||22 |
|Suriname ||163,270 ||436,494 ||2.7 |
|Uruguay ||176,220 ||3,386,575 ||19 |
|Venezuela ||912,050 ||24,287,670 ||27 |
|Total ||17,818,508 ||355,070,540 ||19.9 |
- Brazil (http://www.geographicguide.com/brazil.htm) Geographic Guide
- South America (http://www.geographicguide.com/south-america.htm)