Difference between North America and South America

Key Difference: North America and South America are two continents. Both North America and South America are located in the Western Hemisphere, i.e. west of the prime meridian. However, North America is in the Northern Hemisphere, i.e. north of the equator, while South America is in the Southern South America, i.e. south of the equator. Together, North America and South America are often referred to as the Americas.

The world is divided into approximately 70% water and 30% land mass. Of this 30% land mass, the land is further divided into seven continents. Conventionally, "continents are understood to be large, continuous, discrete masses of land, ideally separated by expanses of water." North America and South America are two such continents. From largest in size to smallest, the seven continents in the world are Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia.

North America is the third largest continent in the world according to area, while South America comes in fourth. It has an area of about 24,709,000 square kilometers (9,540,000 square miles), which amounts to 4.8% of the planet's surface or about 16.5% of its land area. South America, on the other hand, has an area of 17,840,000 square kilometers (6,890,000 sq mi).

In terms of population, North America is the fourth largest continent after Asia, Africa, and Europe. It has a population of approximately, 529 million people, which are divided into 23 independent countries. Whereas, South America is the fifth largest in population, with a population of approximately 371 million people residing in 12 countries.

Both North America and South America are located in the Western Hemisphere, i.e. west of the prime meridian. However, North America is in the Northern Hemisphere, i.e. north of the equator, while South America is in the Southern South America, i.e. south of the equator. Together, North America and South America are often referred to as the Americas. Other times, the Americas are divided into three: North America, Central America, and South America.

While the discovery of America is credited to Christopher Columbus, the truth is that people were living there since as far back as the Ice Age, which was approximately around 18,000 BC. These people were known as Paleo-Indians (Paleoindians) or Paleoamericans. They came over a land and ice bridge called Beringia, which was situated over the Bering Strait from Asia (Eurasia) into North America.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus left Spain in search of a faster route to India, however, instead on 12 October 1492, Columbus landed in The Bahamas, which he thought to be West Indies. Columbus’s discovery launched an Age of Exploration, where every European power wanted a piece of the New World. The Europeans brought with themselves new types of food, animals, improved technology and European diseases, which are credited for the reduction of most of the indigenous population. The rest were conquered in the name of colonization. The colonization of the New World, led to the decline of the civilizations that existed and were thriving in the region. These included the Aztecs, Mayans, Incas, etc.

Depending on who colonized what area, the regions also differ culturally. North America is predominantly influenced by Britain, as majority of the North America, mainly USA and Canada, were colonized by Great Britain. Whereas, Mexico, parts of Central America, and majority of South America were under the rule of Spain, and hence are mainly influenced by them.

Comparison between North America and South America:

 

North America

South America

Description

A continent in the Western and Northern Hemisphere.

A continent in the Western and Southern Hemisphere.

Type of

Continent

Continent

Settled by

Paleo-Indians in 18,000 BC

Paleo-Indians in 18,000 BC

Area

24,709,000 km2 (9,540,000 sq mi)

17,840,000 km2

(6,890,000 sq mi)

Population

528,720,588 (2008)

385,742,554 (2011)

Includes

23 Countries

13 Countries

List of Countries

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada
  • Costa Rica
  • Cuba
  • Dominica
  • Dominican Republic
  • El Salvador
  • Grenada
  • Guatemala
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Jamaica
  • Mexico
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Saint Lucia
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • United States
  • Argentina
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • Guyana
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Suriname
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela

Predominant Languages

English, Spanish, French and many others

Portuguese, Spanish, and many others

Time Zones

UTC-10 to UTC

UTC-2 to UTC-5

Image Courtesy: projectvisa.com

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Comments

North America and North American Continent are NOT the same thing.... Countries in North America are Canada, U.S. and Mexico. Countries in the North American Continent include the three above and the seven countries of Central America. (Islands,etc. are part of the North American Continent. Countries are countries.) Also, many countries do not agree on the definition of the word "continent". Five models.....

Hi. Very informative your article and portraits very well the geographical differences between South America and North America. However, there is one mistake as you are considerating Central America countries in the list of North America countries. And also, Trinidad and Tobago belongs to Central America is located in the Caribbean Ocean up to Venezuela. Have a good day.

Officially, the countries are divided into North America and South America. Central America in not an official designation in the Americas. However, in common parlance, we often divide North America into North America and Central America to differenciate the English influenced North America and the predominantly Spanish influenced Central America. This is also the reaon why whenever somebody thinks of North America they think of only USA and Canada, whereas all the Central American countries officially fall under North America.

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