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Major Landforms in the Caribbean, Central & South America

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  • 0:01 The Caribbean
  • 1:38 Central America
  • 2:34 South America
  • 3:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson highlights the geographic features of the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. It pays particular attention to elevation, bodies of water, rainforests, and mountain ranges.

The Caribbean

Being from the cold Northeast, I often dream of vacationing in the warm climates of places like the Caribbean, Central America, or South America. Since this is usually unfeasible, I guess I'll have to settle with a lesson on the land forms of these beautiful areas. I'll just pretend we're there. No, it won't be as refreshing, but it will be educational!

Let's start our tour in the Caribbean. The Caribbean is made up of about 7,000 islands surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico. Historically referred to as the West Indies or the Antilles, the Caribbean abounds in lush rainforests, coral reefs, and tropical paradises!

Continuing to sound like a travel brochure, the three largest islands of the Caribbean are Cuba, Jamaica, and Hispaniola. All three of these islands include some pretty impressive elevations and mountain ranges. In fact, Pico Duarte is the highest point in the Caribbean. It's located on Hispaniola.

Speaking of elevation, most of the Caribbean is volcanic in origin. This is the reason for the beautiful black beaches of places like Puerto Rico. However, volcanoes aren't just part of the Caribbean's past. Islands like St. Lucia and St. Vincent still have active volcanoes!

Moving away from the topic of elevation, the Caribbean is also dotted with lakes and rivers. They just don't get as much press as the coral reefs and rainforests. Located on Hispaniola, Lake Enriquillo is the largest lake in the Caribbean. Located on Cuba, the Cauto River is the largest river in the Caribbean.

Central America

Moving west of the Caribbean, we come to Central America. Central America is the isthmus that connects North America to South America. An isthmus is a narrow strip of land, surrounded by a sea, which connects two larger landmasses.

Like the Caribbean, Central America has many mountain ranges that are volcanic in origin. The longest mountain range of Central America is the Sierra Madre de Chiapas. The highest elevation in Central America goes to Volcán Tajumulco in Guatemala.

Moving to water, Lake Nicaragua is the largest lake in Central America. As the name implies, it is located in Nicaragua. Located in Honduras, the Rio Coco is Central America's longest river.

Central America is also home to many of the world's rainforests. In fact, more than 50% of Belize is covered by them. Not only does Central America have lush rainforests, it also boasts the second largest coral reef in the world.

South America

Moving south, we come to our last destination, South America. Being quite a landmass, South America is the world's fourth largest continent. However, when it comes to land forms it takes first place in several categories.

Starting the medal ceremony of sorts, South America's Amazon Rainforest is the largest rainforest in the world! Not being left off the medal podium, the similarly named Amazon River has the largest volume of all the world's rivers.

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