written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen•edited by: Jason C. Chavis•updated: 5/27/2011
Are you interested in learning about the Amazon forest? If so, read on to learn more about the Amazon River, the flora, people, animals, and all about Amazon rainforest facts that will get us better acquainted with this area.
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Why Learn About the Amazon Rainforest?
Learning all about Amazon rainforest characteristics gives us a glimpse into this wonder of nature. In fact, this rainforest was a candidate to become a New Seven Wonders of Nature in 2008 by the foundation of the same name. This moist, broad-leaved forest covers the majority of South America's Amazon Basin. More than half of the Earth's remaining rainforests are represented by the Amazon rainforest.
The climate is hot and humid. Throughout the entire year the temperature is 79 degrees Fahrenheit. As the humidity gets heavier the temperature gets compounded. The weather does not change throughout the year. There are two seasons: the not-so-rainy season and the rainy season.
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Where is the Amazon Rainforest Located?
Part of learning all about the Amazon rainforest is finding out what countries in which it is located. It is present in South America within the following countries: Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, Bolivia, Guyana, French Guiana, Colombia, Ecuador, and Suriname. 60 percent of this tropical rainforest is located within Brazil and 13 percent of it is located in Peru. This rainforest encompasses 2,123,562 square miles.
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The Amazon River
The Amazon River runs through the Amazon rainforest. It is considered the world's largest river due to its icy birth. However, some researchers have argued that the Nile River, located in Egypt, is just slightly larger. This river goes more than 4,000 miles across the continent of South America and is fed by 1,100 different tributaries. Overall, this river encompasses more than six million square kilometers. The Amazon River Basin is home to over 2,000 different species of fish.
The arapaima is one of the largest freshwater fish in the world. These river monsters can weigh as much as 440 pounds and reach 15 feet in length. More than 50 percent of this fish's body weight is meat, making it a very popular fish to hunt and eat.
Piranha is probably the most well-known fish in the Amazon River. Most piranha grow to about 10 inches long and weigh about five pounds. They also have two rows (top and bottom) of very sharp teeth.
The Amazon River not only provides transportation, but it also has reserves of oil and natural gas which provide rich sources of energy. This river also has deposits of gold, manganese, bauxite, and other minerals.
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Amazon Rainforest Flora
It is estimated that approximately 40,000 different species of plants are found in the Amazon rainforest. The Kapok tree, orchids, bromeliads, and water lilies are some of the most popular and abundant flora in this tropical rainforest. Pineapples are the most well-known bromeliads and there are approximately 2,700 different species of bromeliads in the Amazon rainforest. They come in a variety of colors, such as purple, orange, blue, and red. They grow everywhere from the rainforest floor and up.
Orchids are beautiful and delicate flowers found in this rainforest. They have a very strong scent which helps them become pollinated because it attracts a variety of insects, even moths. They also come in a variety of colors such as white, pink, yellow, and purple.
Water lilies are the world's largest flower and they can grow to be as big as six feet in diameter. They are found in calm waters and many are found on the banks of the Amazon river and the many other bodies of water within the Amazon rainforest.
The Kapok tree is the Amazon rainforest's largest tree. The trunk of this tree can get as big as about ten feet in diameter and they can grow as high as 200 feet tall. This tree sprouts flowers and the smell of these flowers attracts bats. These trees are home to a variety of different species such as frogs, insects, and birds.
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Amazon Rainforest Animals and Insects
Approximately 2.5 million insects, 3,000 fish, 427 mammals, 378 reptiles, 1,294 birds, and 428 amphibians can be found all about Amazon rainforest areas. Many of the species can pose quite a hazard to other animals, as well as the people of this rainforest. Some of the biggest predatory creatures include the jaguar, black caiman, and the anaconda. Within the Amazon River resides some very dangerous creatures including piranha and electric eels. Other dangerous creatures include poison dart frogs and vampire bats. Many are endangered or threatened.
Spider Monkey: This Amazon rainforest animal lives in the rainforest canopy and survives on seeds, fruits, and leaves. It likes to hang upside down by its tail and can grow to two feet tall.
Anaconda: This snake can reach up to 21 feet in length and weigh 560 pounds. These dangerous snakes continue to grow their entire lives. This snake will squeeze its prey to death and then swallow them whole, without chewing, starting with the head. This snake does not eat very often because it often takes at least a week to digest their prey, but when they do eat they will eat anything from capybara to humans.
Jaguar: This is one of the Amazon rainforest's most dangerous animals. This big cat can weigh as much as 250 pounds and reach six feet in length. They will eat anything they can catch, including humans, and will swim, run (they are incredibly fast), or climb a tree to catch their prey.
Poison Arrow Frog: This small amphibian may seem harmless due its small size, but it contains enough poison to kill about 100 people. Its poison is the most powerful known to make. This frog is not aggressive, but will attack when provoked.
Toucan: This beautiful bird spends its days in the rainforest's canopy. It has a thick, short neck and a big, colorful beak (blue, red, black, white, or a combination). This bird can grow more than two feet tall.
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The People of the Amazon Rainforest
Throughout the history of this tropical rainforest more than 350 ethnic and indigenous groups have made the Amazon rainforest their home. As of today, there are approximately 30 million people living in or around the rainforest. Many people tap the natural resources within the rainforest for clothing, agriculture, and traditional medicines. Most people who live in the Amazon rainforest live just like those in the rest of the world. However, their daily lives are organized differently than ours and their medicines, foods, and clothing almost all come from the rainforest. The tribal children are mostly taught by the adults in the tribe. Their studies mainly revolve around learning the language and surviving the rainforest. In current times, most people who live in the Amazon wear western clothing, use western cooking pots/pans and utensils, make and sell handicrafts for money, make trips to the city to sell and purchase foods and wares, and live in houses. Almost all families have two gardens, one inside and one outside. Nowadays, gathering, hunting, and fishing is secondary when food supplies are low and there is no other way to get food.
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Amazon Rainforest Organization. (2004). Amazon Rainforest Flora. Retrieved on May 9, 2010 from the Amazon Rainforest Organization: http://www.amazon-rainforest.org/flora.html
World Wildlife Fund. (2010). Amazon. Retrieved on May 9, 2010 from the World Wildlife Fund: http://www.worldwildlife.org/what/wherewework/amazon/index.html
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Amazon Rainforest: Cesar Paes Barreto – Wikimedia Commons