Atacama Desert, San Pedro de Atacama region with Andes on the horizon, Chile, South America

South American wildlife

Home to marsupials, monkeys and the world's largest rainforest, South America is the continent with everything - from glaciers to deserts. It became a continent in its own right on breaking away from Africa and Antarctica 120 million years ago. Its fauna and flora are therefore descended from organisms either on the continent then (marsupials, for instance) or that managed to make their way there during its isolation, New World monkeys for example, whose ancestors crossed the early Atlantic Ocean from Africa. Three million years ago, the Isthmus of Panama formed, uniting North and South America and allowing animals including big cats, bears, coral snakes and condors to move in.

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