South America is a continent in the Western and Southern Hemispheres, with a tiny bit extending into the Northern Hemisphere as well. The fourth-largest continent on Earth, South America has a total area of roughly 17,835,252 km2 (6,886,229 mi2), divided between 12 countries and a handful of territories, including French Guiana and the Falkland Islands. The primary languages used throughout South America are Spanish and Portuguese.
South America is home to many record-breaking natural wonders. These include the Amazon river, which is the largest river in the world by volume; the Amazon rainforest, which is the largest rainforest on Earth; and the Andes Mountains, the world's longest continental mountain range. South America is also one of the most biodiverse continents on Earth, and sports a huge variety of native flora and fauna, many of which can be found nowhere else on Earth.
South America’s largest country is Brazil, which encompasses roughly half of the continent's area and population at about 8,515,799 km2 (3,287,086 mi2) and more than 213 million people. Brazil's city Rio de Janeiro is perhaps best known as the site of Carnival, an annual pre-Lent festival billed as the biggest carnival in the world, famous for its costumes, dancing, and parades.
Just to the north of Brazil, one of South America's smaller countries, Venezuela, is the site of Angel Falls, the world's highest uninterrupted waterfall. Unfortunately, Venezuela also has the much less appealing distinction of having one of the highest crime rates in the world.
Agriculture is an important industry in many South American countries, some of which lead the world in production of crops such as coffee, quinoa, sugarcane, oranges, chicken, and yerba mate. Mining is another major economic driver, with materials including gold, silver, copper, iron ore, and emeralds providing a significant source of income for many South American countries.
The dividing line between North America and South America
Although it is often assumed that the dividing line between North and South America is the Panama Canal, an 82 km (51 mi) man-made waterway which enables seagoing vessels to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans without traveling all the way around South America, this assumption is incorrect. The true dividing line lies a few hundred kilometers to the south, where the borders of Panama and Colombia meet in a mountainous region known as the Darién Gap. As such, Central America—all of which lies entirely above the equator—is considered part of North America.
Similarly, the island nations of the Caribbean Sea, which lies between North and South America, are generally considered to be part of North America. All of these countries are located above the equator, and the majority lie on the North American continental shelf. Even the few Caribbean nations that lie on the South American shelf—Aruba, Curacao, Trinidad and Tobago, and the territory Bonaire—are considered part of North America despite the fact that they are positioned less than 100 miles off the coast of the South American country Venezuela.