How many continents on the ground? This is best seen when viewed from space. However, not everyone has such an opportunity, so we will limit ourselves to a model of the planet – a globe. If you look at it carefully, you can see that only a third of the Earth is covered with land, and everything else is water. The land space is divided into several territories, which are called continents, or continents. Previously, it was believed that there were only five of them: America, Australia, Africa, Europe, Asia.
But scientists today take a different view. Firstly, during construction, America was divided into two continents – North and South. Second, Antarctica. Previously, it was believed that the territories around the South Pole are just huge blocks of ice, but now it is known for certain that this is another continent. True, only penguins live on it, but this does not stop it from being land. So we got the answer to the question of how many continents there are on Earth. Turns out there are seven.
What are they?
Looking at a map or a globe, we can see all the continents that exist on our planet. Let’s talk about what they are. Having learned how many continents there are on Earth, let’s clarify – what is it? Continents are huge tracts of land washed by oceans and seas.
If, scientifically, then a continent (continens) is a large massif, most of which is located above the level of the world ocean and is called land, and the smaller one is located below the designated level and is called peripheral. This concept also includes islands located on the shelf zone of the mainland.
About how many continents there are on Earth, opinions differ to this day. Their number in different interpretations is different. For example, Europe and Asia – sometimes they are combined into one continent and called Eurasia. As for America, the opposite is true here: many consider it to be one continent, despite the fact that it is divided by a canal into North and South. Based on this, it turns out that everyone has their own approach. That is why scientists have not yet decided how many continents on Earth – six or seven.
Now let’s look at what each of them is. Asia is the largest continent on Earth. It has an area of 43 million square kilometers. The huge tracts of land following it are America and Africa. Their area – respectively – 42 and 30 million square meters. km.
But the continent of Australia is the smallest on our planet. It occupies only 8 million square kilometers.
It is also very difficult to call Antarctica land, since it is under ice armor. However, in spite of everything, it is the highest continent on the planet, its height is 2040 meters above sea level. And although there is no permanent population in Antarctica, more than 40 research stations of various states are constantly present, engaged in its study.
According to legend, in ancient times there was another continent – Atlantis. However, scientists have not been able to prove this. It is believed that she was located between America and Europe, but sank as a result of a powerful earthquake. That’s how many continents there are on the planet, and each of them has its own climatic conditions, flora and fauna and, of course, population.
A continent is a large landmass surrounded by seas and oceans. In tectonics, continents are characterized as sections of the lithosphere with a continental structure.
Mainland, continent or part of the world? What is the difference?
In geography, another term is often used, denoting the mainland – the continent. But the concepts of “mainland” and “continent” are not synonymous. Different countries have adopted different points of view on the number of continents, called continental models.
There are several such models:
- In China, India, as well as in the English-speaking countries of Europe, it is customary to consider that continents 7 – Europe and Asia, they consider separately;
- In Spanish-speaking European countries, as well as in the countries of South America, they mean the division into 6 parts of the world – with a united America;
- in Greece and some countries of Eastern Europe, a model with 5 continents is adopted – only those where people live, i.e. except for Antarctica;
- in Russia and the countries of Eurasia adjacent to it, they traditionally designate 4 – continents united into large groups.
(The figure clearly shows different representations of continental models on Earth, from 7 to 4)
There are 6 continents in total on Earth. We list them in descending order by area size:
- – the largest continent on our planet (54.6 million sq. km)
- (30.3 million sq. km)
- (24.4 million sq. km)
- (17.8 million sq. km)
- (14.1 million sq. km)
- (7.7 million sq. km)
All of them are separated by the waters of the seas and oceans. Four continents have a land border: Eurasia and Africa are separated by the Isthmus of Suez, North and South America – the Isthmus of Panama.
The difference is that the continents do not have a land border. Therefore, in this case, we can talk about 4 continents ( one of the continental models of the world ), also in descending order in size:
Parts of the world
The terms “mainland” and “continent” have a scientific meaning, but the term “part of the world” divides the land on a historical and cultural basis. There are 6 parts of the world, only unlike the continents, Eurasia differs into Europe and Asia, but North and South America are defined together as one part of the world America :
- America (both North and South), or the New World
- Australia and Oceania
Speaking of parts of the world, they mean the islands adjacent to them.
The difference between the mainland and the island
The definition of the mainland and the island is the same – a part of the land washed by the waters of the ocean or seas. But there are significant differences.
- Size. Even the smallest continent, Australia, is much larger in area than the world’s largest island, Greenland.
(Formation of the Earth’s continents, a single continent of Pangea)
- Education. All continents have a tiled origin. According to scientists, there was once a single continent – Pangea. Then, as a result of the split, 2 continents appeared – Gondwana and Laurasia, which later split into 6 more parts. The theory is confirmed both by geological surveys and by the shape of the continents. Many of them can be put together like a puzzle.
Islands are formed in many ways. There are those that, like the continents, are located on the fragments of the most ancient lithospheric plates. Others are formed from volcanic lava. Still others – as a result of the activity of polyps (coral islands).
- Habitability. All continents are inhabited, even Antarctica, which is harsh in terms of climatic conditions. Many islands are still uninhabited.
Characteristics of the continents
EuroAsia – the largest continent, occupying 1/3 of the land. Two parts of the world are located here at once: Europe and Asia. The border between them runs along the line of the Ural Mountains, the Black and Azov Seas, as well as the straits connecting the Black and Mediterranean Seas.
This is the only continent that is washed by all the oceans. The coastline is indented, it forms a large number of bays, peninsulas, islands. The mainland itself is located immediately on six tectonic platforms, and therefore the relief of Eurasia is incredibly diverse.
Here are the most extensive plains, the highest mountains (the Himalayas with Mount Everest), the deepest lake (Baikal). This is the only continent where all climatic zones (and, accordingly, all natural zones) are represented at once – from the arctic with its permafrost to the equatorial with its sultry deserts and jungles.
¾ of the world’s population lives on the mainland, 108 states are located here, of which 94 have the status of independent.
Africa – the hottest continent on Earth. It is located on an ancient platform, so most of the area is occupied by plains, mountains are formed along the edges of the mainland. Africa is home to the longest river in the world, the Nile, and the largest desert, the Sahara. Climate types presented on the mainland: equatorial, subequatorial, tropical and subtropical.
Africa is usually divided into five regions: North, South, West, East and Central. There are 62 countries on the mainland.
North America is washed by the waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans. The result of the movement of tectonic plates was a heavily indented coastline of the mainland, with a huge number of bays, straits, bays and islands. The largest island is in the north (Greenland).
The Cordillera Mountains stretch along the western coast, and the Appalachians along the eastern coast. The central part is occupied by a vast plain.
All climatic zones are represented here, except for the equatorial one, which determines the diversity of natural zones. Most rivers and lakes are located in the northern part. The largest river is the Mississippi.
The indigenous people are Indians and Eskimos. Currently, 23 states are located here, of which only three (Canada, the United States and Mexico) are on the mainland itself, the rest are on the islands.
South America is washed by the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Along the west coast stretches the world’s longest mountain system – the Andes, or South American Cordillera. The rest of the mainland is occupied by plateaus, plains and lowlands.
This is the rainiest continent, since most of it is located in the equator zone. Here is the largest and most abundant river in the world – the Amazon.
The indigenous people are the Indians. Currently, there are 12 independent states on the territory of the mainland.
Oceania – the only continent on the territory of which there is only 1 state – the Commonwealth of Australia. Most of the mainland is occupied by plains, mountains are located only along the coast.
Australia is a unique continent with the largest number of endemic animals and plants. The indigenous people are Australian Aborigines, or Bushmen.
Antarctica – the southernmost continent, completely covered with ice. The average thickness of the ice cover is 1600 m, the largest is 4000 m. If the ice in Antarctica melted, the level of the world’s oceans would immediately rise by 60 meters!
Most of the mainland is occupied by an icy desert, life is glimmering only on the coasts. Antarctica is also the coldest continent. In winter, temperatures can drop below -80 ºC (record -89.2 ºC), in summer – up to -20 ºC.
In this article you will find out how many continents are on earth and all the detailed information about them.
ABOUT 71% OF THE EARTH’S SURFACE IS OCCUPIED BY THE WORLD OCEAN, AND THE REMAINING LAND SURFACE IS DISTRIBUTED BETWEEN THE CONTINENTS (CONTINENTS).
By definition, a continent is a large mass of the earth’s crust, rising above the level of the oceans. Oddly enough, the number of continents is not generally accepted, ranging from 4 to 7 in different countries. In the post-Soviet space, 6 continents are distinguished with the following area in million km 2:
- Eurasia – 54;
- Africa – 30;
- Antarctica – 14;
- Australia – 9.5;
- North America -24;
- South America -18.
The largest continent – Eurasia – includes two parts of the world – Europe and Asia. The two American continents, on the contrary, make up one part of the world – America. The remaining continents coincide with the parts of the world with the same name.
Mainland – Eurasia
Eurasia accounts for a third of the entire earth’s land, on which ¾ of the total population is concentrated. Here are the largest countries in the world in terms of territory and population. Russia occupies over 17 million km 2, and the population of China at the beginning of 2016 was 1 billion 375 million people.
The territory of Asia occupies 80% of the entire Eurasian continent. This continent, with an average height of 830 m above sea level, is the highest mountain.
Eurasia holds several more geographical records:
- Chomolungma (Everest) – the highest mountain on the planet (8848 m);
- Baikal is the deepest lake on Earth (1642 m), and the Caspian Sea is the largest;
- The Mariana Trench of the Dead Sea is the deepest ocean floor (about 11 km);
- the smallest is the Sea of Azov, and the largest is the Mediterranean.
Mainland – Africa
The African continent has the largest number of states – 53. Africa has the largest placers of diamonds and here is the highest level of their mining, often illegal.
This fact practically does not affect the material standard of living, which here, with rare exceptions, is very low.
Africa is home to the world’s largest desert, the Sahara. Africa is distinguished by the richness of the animal world, among which the cheetah is the fastest animal on the planet.
Everyone knows the Egyptian pyramids. But rare people know that there are much more pyramids in the largest African country – Sudan. It is hard to believe, but in Africa, in Morocco, there is a good ski resort Ifrane, located at an altitude of 1600 m.
Mainland – Antarctica
The ice of Antarctica makes up 90% of all terrestrial ice and contains 70% of all terrestrial fresh water reserves. The average ice thickness exceeds 2 m. The largest iceberg discovered was 300 km long and 37 km wide.
Surprisingly, it is Antarctica, and not Africa, that is the driest continent on earth. Only 10 cm of precipitation per year is recorded here – less than in the African deserts.
Antarctica belongs to no one. There are no time zones here. No one lives permanently on the mainland, and the temporary population is made up of members of scientific expeditions.
The climate of Antarctica is too harsh even for polar bears, which are not there, contrary to popular belief. Most of the continent is inhabited by penguins.
Mainland – Australia
The smallest continent on earth consists of a single state – the Commonwealth of Australia. A third of the continent is desert, so Australia is the driest inhabited continent.
At the same time, the Australian Snowy Mountains receive more snow than the Swiss Alps.
Tasmania, one of the 6 Australian states, has the cleanest air in the world, and the country as a whole is famous for its ideal ecology.
The length of the longest road in the world in the Nullarbor Desert is 146 km, and the Great Barrier Reef stretches for 2600 km.
There are a lot of kangaroos, sheep, and especially rabbits in Australia. It was to protect sheep pastures from rabbits and dingo dogs that the longest fence in the world was built at 8.5 thousand km.
Mainland – North America
The border between the US and Canada, which is almost 9 thousand km, is not guarded. Partially it passes through residential buildings. The island of Greenland, geographically belonging to the North American mainland, belongs to the European state of Denmark.
The Bay of Fundy on the east coast of Canada is the place of the highest tides of the World Ocean, reaching 18 m. Under the influence of a tidal wave, the waterfall located here reverses its direction of movement.
North America has the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth. In 1913 it was 57 0 C in California’s Death Valley.
Sequoia grows on the North American continent – the most ancient representative of the earth’s flora. These trees reach 150 m in height and 20 m in width.
Mainland – South America
Many people know that Colombia bears the name of a Spanish navigator. The name Venezuela also has European roots. Amerigo Vespucci (who gave the name to the entire continent), having studied the features of the development of Venezuela, found similarities with Venice.
AND THE PANAMA HAT WAS INVENTED NOT IN THE COUNTRY OF THE SAME NAME, BUT IN ECUADOR, NAMED FROM THE WORD “EQUATOR”.
This continent holds several geographical records:
- The Amazon with a length of about 7 thousand km is the largest earthly river;
- the height of the Venezuelan Angel Falls exceeds a kilometer;
- the highest mountain capital in the world is the Bolivian La Paz, whose height reaches 4 km;
- in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, there has been no precipitation for centuries (!)
Continents and continents: what’s the difference
If you understand the terminology, you can find that the mainland is considered to be a vast piece of land, which is surrounded on all sides by water. At the same time, it is sometimes specified that most of it should protrude significantly above ocean level. As for the continents, they are considered continuous land areas, that is, Eurasia and Africa, in fact, are a single whole, since they are separated only by an artificial channel. The situation is similar with the Americas, which are also divided conditionally.
- Eurasia and Africa – Old World;
- America (including North and South) – New World.
The theory of the emergence of continents
When looking at the map, one gets the impression that all the continents are parts of a mosaic, which formed the basis of the theory of the German geophysicist Alfred Wegener. In 1913, he suggested that once all the land was a single entity, and despite criticism, half a century later this theory was confirmed.
So, analyzing images of the Earth from space, scientists came to the conclusion that about 250 million years ago there was only one ocean and a single supercontinent. As you know, the crust of our planet is represented by several segments – plates, which, as it were, slide along the outer shell of the mantle. The rotation of the planet, as well as the gravitational forces of the Sun and Moon, caused geological processes that contributed to the displacement of the plates, thereby splitting a single continent into several parts.
Continental movement continues to this day. On average, every year they diverge by several centimeters, moving away from each other.
The mainland is a large land area, which is washed on all sides by oceans or seas.