The Amazon Jungle

The Amazon rainforest covers nearly 3 million square miles and may be one of the most mysterious places on the planet. The Amazon basin takes up half of Brazil and parts of Peru, Venezuela, Columbia, Bolivia, Ecuador and the Guyanas. Named after the Amazon River, the rainforest drains the entire east slope of the Andes Mountains and winds its way for over 4000 miles to deliver twenty eight billion gallons of water a minute to the Atlantic Ocean. The river can be from six to thirty miles wide depending on the season and where it opens up at its confluence with the Atlantic it can be 200 miles across.

The Amazon forest has the greatest biodiversity on the globe and many scientists believe that it may contain half of the world’s species. There are over 500 species of mammals, 400 of reptiles and an amazing estimate of 20 million types of insects that inhabit the forest from the floor to the canopy. The Amazon is home to jaguars, monkeys, tapirs, deer, kinkajous, sloths and a wide variety of other lesser known species. The Amazon forest appears to be lush and rich while in truth the soil is acidic and poor and food is scarce; the rainforest is far from being a tropical paradise.The vast majority of fauna of the Amazon poses no threat to man, but there are those that can ruin much more than your day. Competition for survival between species is fierce and many of the rainforest’s inhabitants, both large and small, are extremely dangerous to man.

Mammals

The most formidable mammal in the Amazon jungle is the jaguar. Although very secretive and seldom seen, the jaguar can pose a definite threat to humans. The spotted cat can reach a weight of 300 pounds and feeds on about anything including other mammals, fish, birds, reptiles and on rare occasions, man. The Amazon is also home to the cougar and although this shy beast is only rarely credited with attacks on humans, it does happen.

Reptiles

The closest relatives to the dinosaur are the crocodilians and the Amazon is host to the caiman, a cousin to alligators which can reach 15 feet in length. Caimans are responsible for many human deaths, the attacks usually occurring at the edge of rivers. The anaconda is the largest snake in the world reaching lengths of over 25 feet. It is non-poisonous and kills by constriction and will often feast on full size jaguars and caimans. Anacondas generally attack humans who are sleeping or molesting them.

Fish

The piranha has been portrayed as a killer that will devour anything that dares to enter the water. Natives often bathe and swim safely in close proximity to schools of piranha but the fish are attracted by blood and death, and will strip a carcass to the bone in minutes. The electric eel, which is really a fish, is a living battery that can produce sufficient amperage and a 500 volt shock that can be deadly to humans.

Insects

The Amazon has no shortage of mosquitoes and these tiny annoyances have spread disease around the world. Mosquitoes carry malaria, yellow fever and dengue, viruses that can be fatal or leave the sufferer wishing they were dead. The Amazon has several stinging caterpillars that have potent venom that has caused many deaths. Survivors claim that they have never experienced such excruciating pain.

Assorted Nasties

There is no end to the wildlife in the Amazon that can bite, sting, poison or crush a human being. There are horrible poisonous snakes like the fer de lance and the bushmaster whose venom can kill a man in minutes. The tiny poison Arrow Frog, a cute, colorful little creature, has some of the most toxic venom known to man and although deaths are rare, the frog carries enough venom to kill 100 people. There is a tiny burrowing spider that gets under the skin to lay its eggs and can’t be removed for fear of rupturing the poison sack and must be left to fester. The one that seems to really terrify the masses the most is the minute catfish that is purported to swim up the human urinary track lodging itself in with sharp spines and must be surgically removed. All things considered, I’d rather deal with the snakes.

Sources:
http://library.thinkquest.org/04oct/02004/pages/frog.htm
http://rainforests.mongabay.com/amazon/insects.html
http://www.squidoo.com/dangerous-bugs
http://www.unique-southamerica-travel-experience.com/amazon-rainforest-animals.html


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