With a total area of 6.8 million square miles, South America accounts for almost 3.5 percent of the Earth’s surface. The continent ranks fourth in area and fifth in population. South America’s biodiversity accounts for a major proportion of the planet’s species, including such unique animals as the llama, anaconda, piranha, jaguar, vicuña and tapir.
South America is a place of extremes: It is home to the driest place on Earth (the Atacama Desert) and one of the wettest (the Amazon Rainforest; and it contains the world’s highest commercially navigable lake (Lake Titicaca) and the southernmost permanently inhabited community (Puerto Toro, Chile).
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