The 7 Continents Ranked by Size and Population

Europe on a Globe

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What is the largest continent on Earth? That's easy: Asia. It's the biggest in terms of size and population. But what about the other continents: Africa, Antarctica, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America? Below the continents are ranked by area, largest to smallest, and their 2016 population estimate is listed as well for each, from World Atlas.com. 

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Asia: 17,139,445 square miles (44,391,162 square km)

Caucasian male and Asian female in outdoor Taiwanese night Market standing in front of food vendor

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Being the largest in square miles by a big margin also puts it at an advantage population-wise, having 4,436,224,000 of the world's population of 7.6 billion (2017 UN estimate).

And these aren't the only superlatives of this continent. Asia also boasts the highest and lowest points on Earth. Mt. Everest is the highest point, at 29,035 feet above sea level. The lowest point is the Dead Sea, which is more than 1,400 feet below sea level.

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Africa: 11,677,239 square miles (30,244,049 square km)

Aerial view of street scene with market stalls, Accra, Ghana

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Africa is number two on both lists, population and size. Its population is estimated at 1,216,130,000; it and Asia are forecast to be the highest areas of world population growth in the coming decades as well. 

Africa is home to the longest river in the world, the Nile. It stretches 4,258 miles from Sudan to the Mediterranean Sea.

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North America: 9,361,791 square miles (24,247,039 square km)

An aerial shot of the abandoned and iconic Ore Dock in Marquette, Michigan along the shore of Lake Superior.

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North America is where the two lists diverge in their rankings because this continent's population is not growing as fast as Asia's. In area, North America is third, but population-wise, it's fourth on the list, with 579,024,000 people.

North America boasts the largest freshwater lake in the world, Lake Superior. One of the Great Lakes, Superior covers more than 31,700 square miles between the United States and Canada.

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South America: 6,880,706 square miles (17,821,029 square km)

Cuernos del Paine, Patagonia, Chile.

 Photography by Gene Wahrlich/Getty Images

The fourth largest continent, South America, is fifth on the world population list, with 422,535,000 people living there. Of the United Nations' most populous cities list of the world, São Paulo, Brazil, ranks number five.

South America has the longest mountain range in the world. The Andes Mountains stretch 4,300 miles from Venezuela south to Chile.

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Antarctica: About 5,500,000 square miles (14,245,000 square km)

Penguins relax on a small iceberg, Antarctica

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No one has to guess very hard what is the least populous continent, as there are no permanent residents in Antarctica. Up to 4,000 researchers and personnel live there in the summer and 1,000 in the winter.

The amount of ice cover in Antarctica affects the exchange of heat, moisture, and gases between the ocean and the atmosphere. Changes in the ice, in turn, affect global weather patterns—and by extension over time, climate.

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Europe: 3,997,929 square miles (10,354,636 square km)

View of Vatican City

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Europe comes in at number three on population rankings, with a 2016 estimate of 738,849,00 people. The United Nations Population Division expects its population to decline over the coming decades due to a low fertility rate.

Europe lays claim to the largest and smallest nations in the world. Russia is the biggest at 6.6 million square miles, while Vatican City is the smallest at 109 acres.

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Australia: 2,967,909 square miles (7,686,884 square km)

Esperance beach Kangaroos

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It might be the smallest continent, but Australia is the sixth largest nation in the world. Only about 10 percent of it is habitable, with the majority of the population, at 24,127,160 (WorldBank.org, 2016), clustering in the urban areas on the coasts.  

Australia is about the size of the contiguous 48 states of America.