A continent is one of several very large landmasses of the world. Six regions are commonly regarded as continents. Ordered from largest in size to smallest, they are: Eurasia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, and Australia. However, some people use a 7-continent model, where the continents are (in decreasing order): Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia. Australia is the name of a country, the largest island in the Earth, and a continent (that only includes the countries Australia, parts of Indonesia, and New Guinea) but for convenience purposes, the Australian continent is included in a extension that includes Hawaii and the other Pacific Islands called Oceania.
All of the continents were once joined up in a single supercontinent called Pangaea. Due to plate tectonics, Pangaea broke into the continents we have today. The Indian Subcontinent was a separate continent for several million years, before colliding with Eurasia and creating the Himalayas. New Zealand and New Caledonia are not part of the Australian continent, but rather part of Zealandia, a former continent that sank into the ocean 100 million years ago.
South America is the continent to the south of North America and the continent between Oceania and Africa. These two continents are separated by the Panama Canal, even though all of Panama is usually considered located in North America. South America is mostly referred to as Latin America due to the influences from Latin countries, mostly Spain and Portugal.
The South American continent associates with three tectonic plates: the Nazca Plate, located off the coast of Chile, the main South American plate, and the Scotia plate (which only contains the Scotia Sea located south of the Falkland Islands).
Africa's tectonic plate not only contains Africa, but also Sicily, Israel, and Iberia (Spain and Portugal). According to some predictions, the African plate is breaking at the East African Rift into the Nubian Plate (Africa west of the rift) and the Somali Plate (Africa east of the rift). This will possibly cause eastern Africa breaking off mainland Africa in the future.
Asia, along with Europe, form Eurasia, the largest continent on Earth. Asia is mostly located in the northern hemisphere.
Stretching from the icy Arctic Ocean in the north to the hot and steamy equatorial lands in the south, Asia contains huge, empty deserts, as well as some of the world's highest mountains and longest rivers. It has 30% of the world's land area and 60% of the Earth's population.
Asia associates with a few tectonic plates. Asia Minor occupies the Anatolian Plate. The Middle East covers the Arabian Plate. India is located on Australia's tectonic plate, the Indo-Australian Plate, reflecting India's collision with Asia 50 million years ago. Europe and Asia (except Japan and Eastern Russia, which are on North America's tectonic plate) share the Eurasian plate. Southwest Russia and the Korean peninsula are located on the Amurian Plate. The Philippines has its own tectonic plate named after it, but the Philippines does not cover any part of it.
Australia, to distinguish it from the Commonwealth of Australia, is a continent consisting only of the Commonwealth of Australia, Papua (a province of Indonesia), and Papua New Guinea. Situated in the geographical region of Oceania (which is not a continent; includes not just the countries in the Australian continent but also the other island of the Pacific Ocean), it is the smallest of the seven traditional continents in the English conception.
New Zealand and New Caledonia are not part of the Australian continent, but rather part of Zealandia. If Zealandia is not counted as a continent, then New Zealand and New Caledonia are not part of any continent.
Australia shares its tectonic plate with the Indian subcontinent, the Indo-Australian plate. New Zealand is shared between the Indo-Australian and Pacific plates.
Antarctica is the Earth's southernmost continent. It contains the geographic South Pole and is situated in the Antarctic region of the Southern Hemisphere, almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle, and is surrounded by the Southern Ocean. At 14,000,000 square kilometers (5,400,000 square miles), it is the fifth-largest continent.
About 98% of Antarctica is covered by ice that is almost 2 kilometers deep on average.
According to people who believe that the Earth is flat, Antarctica is not a continent, but rather an 'Ice Wall' at the edge of the Earth.
|Continent Name||Highest Point||Typical Landscape||Land Area (in km2)|
||Everest||Mountainous with lush forests.||55,000,000|
|Africa||Kilimanjaro||Contains the Sahara desert.
Also has lush rainforests in the
|North America||Denali||Mountainous and flat.||24,490,000|
|South America||Aconcagua||Contains the Amazon rainforest.
Mountainous in the Andes.
|Antarctica||Vinson Massif||Entirely covered by ice.||13,720,000|
||Puncak Jaya||High temperatures and few
rainforests. Also has large deserts.
|Mauna Kea||Most of Oceania's countries are
tropical island countries.
|India (former)||Kanchenjunga||Several forests and high mountains.||4,400,000|
|Zealandia (former)||Aoraki||Lots of forests, tundra, and
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