Asia covers an area of 44,579,000 square kilometres, about 30% of Earth's total land area and 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area. Asia is notable for not only its overall large size and population, but also dense and large settlements, as well as vast barely populated regions. Its 4.5 billion people constitute roughly 60% of the world's population.
Asia varies greatly across and within its regions with regard to ethnic groups, cultures, environments, economics, historical ties and government systems. It also has a mix of many different climates ranging from the equatorial south via the hot desert in the Middle East, temperate areas in the east and the continental centre to vast subarctic and polar areas in Siberia.
Africa is the world's second largest and second most-populous continent at about 30.3 million km2 including adjacent islands with 1.2 billion people as of 2016.
Africa hosts a large diversity of ethnicities, cultures and languages. In the late 19th century, European countries colonised almost all of Africa; most present states in Africa originated from a process of decolonisation in the 20th century.
North America covers an area of about 24,709,000 square kilometers. In 2016, its population was estimated at nearly 579 million people in 23 independent states, or about 7.5% of the world's population, if nearby islands are included.
European influences are strongest in the northern parts of the continent while indigenous and African influences are relatively stronger in the south. Because of the history of colonialism, most North Americans speak English, Spanish or French and societies and states commonly reflect Western traditions.
South America has an area of 17,840,000 square kilometers. Its population as of 2016 has been estimated at more than 420 million.
The continent's cultural and ethnic outlook has its origin with the interaction of indigenous peoples with European conquerors and immigrants and, more locally, with African slaves. Given a long history of colonialism, the overwhelming majority of South Americans speak Portuguese or Spanish, and societies and states reflect Western traditions.
At 14,000,000 square kilometres, it is the fifth-largest continent. About 98% of Antarctica is covered by ice that averages 1.9 km in thickness, which extends to all but the northernmost reaches of the Antarctic Peninsula.
Anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 people reside throughout the year at research stations scattered across the continent. Organisms native to Antarctica include many types of algae, bacteria, fungi, plants and certain animals, such as mites, nematodes, penguins, seals and tardigrades.
Europe covers about 10,180,000 square kilometres, or 2% of the Earth's surface and had a total population of about 741 million (about 11% of world population) as of 2016.
Europe, in particular Italy and ancient Greece, was the birthplace of Western civilization. The fall of the Western Roman Empire during the Migration Period marked the end of ancient history and the beginning of an era known as the Middle Ages. Renaissance Humanism, exploration, art, and science led to the modern era. From the Age of Discovery onwards, Europe played a predominant role in global affairs.
Australia is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands. The population of 25 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's size gives it a wide variety of landscapes, with tropical rainforests in the north-east, mountain ranges in the south-east, south-west and east, and dry desert in the centre.
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