The Amazon Jungle is one of the last unexplored places on Earth, and new species are discovered in it every day. The Jungle covers 40% of South America and spreads across nine different countries. It holds an estimated 390 billion different trees and over 4,000 miles of rivers, which are home to thousands of species of plants, animals, fish, and insects. Although many species in the Amazon Rainforest have not been identified yet, the creatures that we do know about are pretty incredible.
Jaguars are the largest cat in the Americas, and they can be longer than 7 feet and over 200 pounds. They are often confused with a leopard, but you can see a difference in their spots because jaguars have dots in the middle of their spots while leopards do not. Some also have all black coats, and albino jaguars have white fur.
Incredibly powerful jaws provide enough force that their canine teeth can pierce the skull of their prey or break open a sea turtle’s shell. They are not picky carnivores and will eat almost any animal they catch and have even been known to eat fish.
Capybaras are rodents, like mice and rats, but they grow up to 4 feet long and can weigh 140 pounds. Like any other rodent, their incisors grow continuously because they get worn down by all the plants they chew on. As picky eaters, they will only eat certain types of grasses and plants. They love water and live in large groups, which provides protection from jaguars, caimans, and anacondas who think they are a very tasty meal.
Sloths are known for moving slowly, and even their digestive system works sluggishly. It can take a month to digest their food! Every sloth carries its own micro-ecosystem of algae, fungi, and hundreds of insects. Sloth moths eat the algae and live in their fur, along with beetles and mites. Recent research suggests that sloths may actually garden and eat their algae. Imagine growing your food in your own hair!
Giant armadillos can grow to 5 feet long and have 14 to 17 bands of bony plates protecting their body. Despite their armor, they are excellent swimmers and can hold their breath for up to six minutes. They are nocturnal and spend most of the day in a burrow sleeping and hiding from predators. Interestingly, their burrow entrances almost always open to the west. Although they have 80-100 teeth, more than any other terrestrial mammal, they use all those teeth to eat bugs. Giant armadillos’ favorite food is termites, and their claws are specially shaped to tear open termite mounds.
Giant Anteaters are the size of a golden retriever and, with their long bushy tails, they are usually over 7 feet long. They have no teeth, but spikes on their 2-meter-long, sticky tongue help anteaters devour around 30,000 bugs a day. Although you wouldn’t imagine it by looking at them, sloths, armadillos, and anteaters are the only members of the animal superorder Xenarthra. As their name implies, anteaters feed on ants, but like the armadillo, they also consume many termites.
This beautiful monkey is a small species that lives in the Amazon jungle in Brazil. Although their abundance of fiery orange fur makes them look bigger, they weigh less than 2 pounds. Unusual for a monkey, they usually give birth to twins and sometimes even triplets or quadruplets. Like humans, they have incisors, canines, and molars to help them eat many types of food, but their canine teeth are much longer than ours.
Basilisk Lizards are also called Jesus Lizards because they can walk or run on water for over 15 feet! This is even more amazing when you realize basilisks are not a small lizard. Adults are between 1.5 and 2.5 feet long. Don’t worry about them sinking at the end of their run on water though, because they swim well or can stay underwater for up to 20 minutes. Although comfortable in the water, basilisks spend most of their time in trees. As omnivores, they will eat flowers, fruit, insects, reptiles, birds, fish, shrimp, and the occasional frog.
There are 19 species of Macaw, which are incredibly beautiful and come in many different colors. They are social birds that live in flocks of 10 to 30 and they also socialize with many different species of macaw and parrots. Blu, from the movies “Rio” and “Rio 2,” is a Spix's macaw, which is believed to be extinct in the wild, but 60 to 80 still live in captivity.
Although herbivores, macaws that live in the western Amazon basin eat clay nearly every day. Scientists are not sure why they do this. Their powerful beaks are strong enough to crack nuts and their tongues have a bone so they can use it to tap into fruit!
Arapaimas are some of the largest freshwater fish in the world and can grow to almost 10 feet long. The heaviest arapaima ever weighed was 440 pounds.
This fish has gills and a swim bladder, which is made of lung-like tissue so it can also use oxygen from the air! Not only will it eat fish and crustaceans, but also small land animals along the shore.
The Amazon River Dolphin is a toothed whale that only lives in freshwater. They turn a beautiful pink color as they age, and adults are larger than a human. Their jaws hold 25 to 28 pairs of teeth which are used to catch fish or crack open the shells of turtles and crabs. Many Amazon tribes wouldn’t hunt them, thinking they were magical beings.
At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.