What Makes a Continent?

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A continent is a large land mass on Earth that is distinguished by a separation from other land by water or by a distinct cultural difference. Earth has a total of seven continents: North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and Antarctica.

Not everyone agrees on which land masses constitute continents. Although many people list the seven traditional continents, some consider Europe and Asia to be one large continent, Eurasia. This is because Europe and Asia are not separated by any large bodies of water. Instead, they compose one large land mass. Also, the countries of Russia and Kazakhstan stretch across both continents. Others continue to separate Europe and Asia, citing the Ural Mountains as sufficient physical separation with cultural differences between the two land areas further cementing the separation.

Many European countries list North America and South America as a single continent, America. In other areas, Antarctica is not considered a continent. These discrepancies in what makes a continent have led geographers to use regions instead of continents when studying parts of the world. This method has led to similar inconsistencies to those associated with the continents. Not all geographers use the same method of dividing the world into regions.