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Biodiversity In The Amazon Rainforest

Updated: Feb 13

By Shanna Edwards


Image by Stéphane Bidouze for Fotolia

The Amazon Rainforest, or the Amazon Jungle, is located in the north of South America and stretches across Guyana, Brazil, Venezuela and many other countries. This rainforest spans over 6,000,000 square kilometers—that’s about half the size of the United States and twice the size of India, making it the world’s largest remaining tropical rainforest. The amazon river runs through the forest for 6400 km, having over 3,000 different types of cool and diverse fish species. In addition, this magnificent landscape is home to millions of different species of plants and animals.


Key Words:

Biodiversity is the term used to describe the many different forms of life in a particular place, such as a habitat, or in this case the Amazon Rainforest.

A biome is a naturally occurring community of plant and animal species occupying a place. Therefore, this rainforest is a biome!

A bract is a type of small leaf structure, with flowers between the leaf stalk and stem/trunk


Let’s explore the rainforest!


Plants

The Amazon rainforest is sometimes called “the lungs of the Earth”. This is because the vegetation—trees and other plants—remove carbon dioxide from the air and produce oxygen in a process called photosynthesis. This process accounts for more than 20% of the oxygen on Earth! Here are some plants found in the Amazon.


1. Heliconia flower (aka Lobster claw) - This flower is known for its bright bracts* which can be many different colors. They are large structures and can be anywhere from 3-30 feet tall. Also, this flower can act as a home for tons of tiny species of aquatic organisms because of its ability to collect water in its bracts.


2. Rubber Tree - This tree can grow from 100-130 feet tall. Its sap is milky white latex, which is collected and used all around the world in various industries. Latex can be processed to form rubber, which can be then used to make clothes, balls and other useful items. This type of tree can now also be found in Southeast Asia as a result of illegal seed smuggling.


3. Cacao (scientific name: Throbroma cacao) - This is a small tree (about 13-26 feet tall) with leaves about 12 inches long. Its brightly colored flowers sometimes have a foul odor. It has edible seeds that can be processed to make cocoa powder, cocoa butter, chocolate and various other products. That means you have samples of the rainforest all around you, even in your home!


Heliconia flower Rubber tree Cacao


Animals

The amazon rainforest is home to an amazingly diverse bunch of animals. They are some of the most fascinating, beautiful, and sometimes deadly, animals in the world. Here are some examples.

1. Anaconda - This is a type of snake group with four distinct species. There are green, yellow, Bolivian and dark-spotted anacondas. The anaconda is the biggest and heaviest snake in the world! These animals can weigh up to 550 lbs and be up to 17 feet long. They are amazing swimmers and can stay underwater for up to 10 minutes. These snakes commonly feed on fish, birds and small mammals around bodies of water. Although they are not venomous, they kill their prey with their strong jaws and muscular bodies. They can eat an adult human whole!


2. Poison Dart Frog - These frogs are the most brightly colored frogs in the world. They can be yellow, red, green, blue or black with spots and/or stripes. This design helps them to protect against predators,like a warning system to stay back. This makes sense since these frogs produce a natural venom which can paralyze or kill predators!


3. Jaguar - The jaguar belongs to the feline family and is the largest cat found in North and South America. A jaguar’s fur is yellowish tan and covered with darker spots. These cats are carnivores and normally eat deer, monkeys, snakes, or basically anything they can catch. They can climb trees, swim, or run really fast to catch their prey, which are crushed under the jaguar’s powerful jaws and sharp teeth.


4. Toucan - This is a species of bird, in which there are 40 different types. They have huge, colorful bills that can be white, green, blue, black, etc. This biological feature makes them attractive to potential mates. They usually eat fruits and berries or small birds and lizards, which makes them omnivores.


5. Pirarucu - Being a huge carnivorous fish that is nearly 3 meters long, the pirarucu weighs 485 lbs. It has teeth on the roof of its mouth and its tongue helps to catch its prey. It also has an air bladder, which helps it to “breathe air” by capturing oxygen and storing it for long periods of time. This enables the fish to stay in very deep, low-oxygen, areas for long periods of time and hunt weaker fish there.


1st row: Anaconda, Poison Dart Frog

2nd row: Jaguar, Toucan

3rd row: Pirarucu


The Amazon today

The Amazon rainforest is home to so much life, but also natural resources needed for human existence. Because of this, the trees and vegetation in the rainforest have been cut down on a large scale. The size of the forest has decreased dramatically over time to accommodate human need, and many animals have lost their homes. However, in recent years, many countries, such as Brazil, have put laws in place that prevent people from destroying the rainforest. These laws have had a large effect on the livelihood of the forest, and have resulted in a major decrease in deforestation since the 1990’s.


Can you think of any major reasons why deforestation in the Amazon Jungle might be bad?

Sources

1. https://www.natgeokids.com/uk/discover/geography/physical-geography/amazon-facts/

2. https://www.britannica.com/place/Amazon-Rainforest

3. https://defenders.org/jaguar/basic-facts

4. https://www.britannica.com/plant/cacao

5. https://www.rainforestcruises.com/jungle-blog/coolest-plants-in-the-amazon

6. https://www.rainforestcruises.com/jungle-blog/largest-snake-in-the-amazon-jungle-anaconda-facts

7.http://www.srl.caltech.edu/personnel/krubal/rainforest/Edit560s6/www/animals/toucanpage.html

8. https://www.trails.com/list_11191_animals-that-live-amazon-rainforest.html

9. https://www.britannica.com/animal/pirarucu

10. https://www.wildrepublic.com/en/anaconda-snake-facts

11. https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/species/heliconia

12. https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/species/poison-dart-frog

13. https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/species/rubber-tree

Editor: Caitlin Quinn

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