12 Facts about South America

south america
KERKMT Panoramic view from the top to old Inca ruins and Wayna Picchu mountain, Machu Picchu, Urubamba provnce, Peru

South America, or Latin America, is a continent that occupies the southern portion of North America (it does not include the Caribbean). The Pacific Ocean borders it to the west and by land borders to E south and NNE. Here are facts about South America.

Facts about South America

1. South America is home to some of the world’s most varied climate zones.

From the tropical rains and beaches of Brazil to the temperate rainforests of Chile, Central America, Guyana, and Suriname, to the dry savannahs of Argentina and Patagonia – South America holds a stunning variety of climates.

2. The Andes Mountains are the second longest mountain range on Earth (after the Himalayas).

The Andes stretch across ten countries in South America. They can produce around 15% of all freshwater used worldwide. At its highest point near 12,000m above sea level, this range is home to several renowned ski resorts that receive up to 2 meters (6 feet) of snow annually.

3. The Guiana Shield covers an area of 800,000 square kilometers (300,000 square miles).

Covering parts of Venezuela, Guyana, and Suriname, the Guiana Shield is the oldest section of continental crust on Earth. It is primarily made up of Precambrian sandstone and granite. The shield is also home to mineral deposits such as gold and diamonds. Its soils are particularly fertile, which makes it prime agricultural territory – though it has been heavily eroded by deforestation in recent times.

4. The Amazon rainforest – which spans nine countries in South America – is the largest rainforest on Earth.

Covering over 5 million square kilometers (1.9 million square miles) in South America, the Amazon is home to millions of plant and animal species – flora and fauna. But deforestation threatens its habitats, including the tropical rainforests and the animals that call these forests home – such as jaguars, macaws, crocodiles, and manatees.

5. South America is home to a rare breed of dog.

The Andean mountain dog is a small breed of canine indigenous to large parts of South America. Believed to descend from domestic dogs brought by Spanish explorers and settlers, these dogs can now be found in Europe and North America. The most distinctive feature is their long fur – which extends over the shoulders and backs down to their hips – making them look like miniature wolves.

6. South America is home to the largest bird in the world – the condor.

South America is home to two of the largest extant birds in the world! The Great – or Giant – condor is not only the largest living bird but also one of the heaviest flying creatures on Earth. And while it may not be as large as its name suggests, the Steller’s sea eagle is even larger and heavier!

7. The Amazon River holds some of the most diverse biodiversity on Earth.

Around 5 million different species of fish and other aquatic organisms call this river home, making it one of Earth’s most diverse regions on land. The river is also home to some of Earth’s most technically advanced species, including the piranha! It is unclear when – or even if – the Amazon River will stop producing new species.

8. South America is home to the most dangerous venomous snake in the world – the Bothrops Jararaca.

While they are often mistaken for rattlesnakes and pitvipers, this species belongs to the viper family. It is also known as the Mauser pitviper, one of the two species in the genus Bothrops. It is highly aggressive, and its bite can be fatal to humans. When disturbed, this snake will release a venomous spray of venom into the air.

9. The world’s largest known mammal once roamed South America – the giant ground sloth.

This two-legged mammal was the largest land mammal to ever live on Earth. Its closest modern-day relative is the tree sloth, which can be found in Central and South America, along with some Caribbean islands. While they are similar in appearance, they are more closely related to armadillos and anteaters!

10. Only two countries have adopted the metric system as their primary systems of measurement: Venezuela and Cuba.

South America is not an overzealous advocate of adopting the metric system—only two countries, Venezuela and Cuba, use it as their primary measurement system! They became metricated in 1962 and 1975, respectively.

11. Argentina was the first country to elect a female president.

Jorge Rafael Videla was elected president of Argentina in 1976. He had made his mark as an army captain in the Dirty War that lasted from 1976-1983, during which thousands of political prisoners were kidnapped and detained without trial or proper medical treatment.

12. There is a river in Chile that runs red.

It’s known as the “Red River” or “The Red.” It is technically not a river but a seasonal phenomenon caused by red sediments from surrounding mountains. The color changes according to the rainfall levels and has been known to be a vibrant orange occasionally.

South America is a continent of contrasts. It’s rich in biodiversity and rich in poverty. You can find the world’s largest rainforest and the driest place on Earth here—not to mention some of the most comprehensive education programs on Earth. Its lands are home to many world heritage sites, but many South American countries will take 500 years to achieve universal electricity access.

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