Wildlife of the Amazon

A jaguar rests in a tree © Michel Gunther / WWF-Canon

The Amazon rainforest is absolutely teeming with life. From tiny insects to huge predators, it's a vast and interconnected web of life. And they all rely on the rainforest staying in tact to survive.

Invertebrates

Spider on dry autumn leaf (c) Zig Koch / WWFScientists know of more than 100,000 insect and other invertebrate species in the Amazon rainforest, but believe the actual number to be significantly higher. A 2.5km2 area of forest can host up to 50,000 insect species.

The Amazon’s largest invertebrates include the longhorn beetle, which measures 16cm, the 20cm flatworm and the Amazonian centipede, which is 30cm long.

The Manu National Park in Peru has 1,300 butterfly species – the whole of Europe has just 321.

Fish

Pirarucu fish in water (c) Michel Roggo / WWF-CanonThe Amazon river and its hundreds of tributaries are home to more than 3,000 different kinds of fish. Some of these feed on the plankton of flooded forests, while others have adapted to a diet of fruit and seeds.

Carnivorous fish species include the electric eel, which can reach 1.8m in length and deliver shocks of up to 650 volts.

The Amazon is also home to 20 species of piranha. Many of these are in fact vegetarian, but watch out for the red piranha when water levels and food supplies are low.

The pirarucu (above) is one of the world’s largest freshwater fish, reaching up to 2.5m in length.

Amphibians

Frog with yellow stripes (c)Roger Leguen / WWF-CanonThe Amazon rainforest is famed for its brightly coloured tree frogs - they can be bright blue, green, orange or yellow. But beware: the most vibrant frogs usually prove the most toxic.

Other amphibians include the climbing salamander, the orange-bellied leaf toad and the Peruvian smooth-sided toad.

Amphibians are particularly sensitive to changes in their rainforest habitat. The loss of tree cover, and resulting changes in rainfall and humidity, could be fatal for many species.

Click to hear a poison dart frog’s call.

Reptiles

Caiman with mouth open (c) André Bärtschi - WWF-CanonMost of the world’s reptiles are found in tropical regions. Reptiles indigenous to the Amazon rainforest include 20 species of turtle and five species of boa snake.

The black caiman is the Amazon’s largest predator - adult males can reach 6m in length. Related to crocodiles, they eat fish and animals such as deer, capybara (the world’s largest rodent), tapirs (a pig-like mammal) and even puma and jaguars.

Did you know that boa snakes swallow their prey whole - including fish, birds, and even crocodiles and deer?

Birds

Two Scarlet Macaws flying (c) David Lawson / WWF-UKThe Amazon rainforest is home to over 1,300 bird species, from the iconic toucan to tiny hummingbirds.

Birds are particularly vulnerable to deforestation. Amazonian species under threat include the harpy eagle and hyacinth macaw.

The hyacinth macaw population has dropped to about 6,500. Macaws are threatened by the destruction of their rainforest habitat and by the pet trade, as their beautiful feathers make them highly desirable.

Click to hear a scarlet macaw.

Rainforest mammals

Jaguar resting on branch (c) Y.-J. Rey-Millet WWF-CanonThe Amazon is home to over 400 different mammal species, including the majestic jaguar – the largest cat in the Americas.

Hunting, a drop in the amount of food available and loss of their rainforest habitat have reduced mammal populations across the Amazon.

Click to hear a jaguar's roar.

The Amazon also hosts some of the most amazing aquatic mammals, like the mystical pink river dolphin, the elusive Amazonian manatee and the aptly-named giant otter.

Howling Monkey reaching for branch (c) Martin Harvey / WWF-CannonThe rainforest canopy is teeming with primates, like the black spider monkey - one of the largest primates in South America – and howler monkeys, who use their distinctive cry to ward off other monkeys threatening to invade their territory.

 

Click to hear a howler monkey's howl.

 

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