Map of Africa
Natural History
- Introduction
- Vocabulary
- Land of Contrasts
- Climate
- Vegetation
- Animals
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Credits

Classroom Ideas
Bibliographies:
(Academy Library)
- African People
- African Animals
African Photos

AFRICA: LAND OF CONTRASTS

The continent of Africa is immense. Covering over 11,714,000 square miles (29,987,840 square kilometers) or more than one-fifth of all the earth's land surface, it is the second largest continent on earth. Contained within its borders are 46 countries and territories with a total population of more than 817,000,000 people. People and cultures are diverse, ranging from desert nomads to pygmies of the rain forest to tribesmen of the central plains. Most of Africa lies between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, 23.5 degrees north and south, respectively, from the equator. These belts mark the northern and southernmost points on the earth that have the sun overhead at noon on at least one day of the year. The area in between these belts is called the tropics; it receives large amounts of sunlight throughout the year and consequently has high temperatures. The narrow strip of Africa bordering the Mediterranean Sea (north of the Sahara) and the tip of South Africa have a climate similar to southern California, with winter rains and moderately warm temperatures. Because it is typical of the lands in the Mediterranean Basin, this climate is known as a Mediterranean climate.

Most of Africa is covered by desert or grassland; forest covers less than 10 percent of the land. Much of the continent is dominated by vast areas of plains that have uniform vegetation and landscape. Many animals inhabit Africa, including more than 1 570 species of mammals.

Africa is linked to Asia in the northeast by the Sinai Peninsula and separated from Europe by the Mediterranean Sea. 

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