The mighty Amazon Rainforest stretches across the length and breadth of the northern half of Latin America, encompassing parts of Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guyana, and more countries across the continent. Often referred to as the “lungs of the Earth”, the forest is one of the world’s most important ecosystems. Iconic species such as the jaguar, tapir, and caiman crocodile inhabit the rainforest, but there are many lesser-known species too. In this article, we’ll introduce you to six weird animals in the Amazon Rainforest. Including many lesser-known and more bizarre species, only found in the Amazon rainforest and its rivers.
Conservation Status: Near Threatened
What sets the Harpy Eagle apart from other birds of prey is its sheer size. Females are much larger than males and can weigh in at a whopping 12kg. It is one of the largest birds in the world, and certainly the largest in Latin America, feeding on large prey animals including sloths and monkeys. Only very rarely are the eagles preyed on themselves, with inexperienced youngsters sometimes becoming dinner for an opportunistic jaguar. Found most commonly in Brazil, the species has been the beneficiary of significant conservation efforts to boost its depleted numbers.
Conservation Status: N/A
The glass frog isn’t a single species. But rather a group of amphibians known to inhabit the northern Amazon region. What makes these frogs unusual is the fact that their abdominal skin is transparent, meaning their internal organs are visible from the outside. The heart, liver, and more can actually be seen in real-time, working inside still-living animals. Is this cool, creepy, or what?! These frogs are hard to spot in the dense jungles, tend to live in trees, and only come out during their brief mating season.
Conservation Status: Near Threatened
A large and impressive shark species, the bull shark isn’t actually that unique in its looks. What makes it fascinating is that these usually saltwater species have been recorded living in the freshwater ecosystems of the Amazon. The Peruvian city of Iquitos is more than 2,500 miles from the coast. However, the waters here are home to a population of bull sharks, which thrive on freshwater prey, perfectly at home in the murky waters. There are other examples of bull sharks living in freshwater, such as in Lake Nicaragua and the Brisbane River. This fact demonstrates just how versatile this wonderful shark is.
Conservation Status: Data Deficient
Growing up to three meters in length, the arapaima is one of the world’s largest freshwater fish. Recognizable for its flashy red tail. Found throughout the Amazon basin, population numbers are unclear. Nonetheless, overfishing is a worry. This is due to the fact that the arapaima is commonly caught for food by people living in the region. Feeding mainly on fish, crustaceans, insects, and more, arapaima has been known to torpedo out of the water to snatch small mammals from the shore. This feeding-frenzy is a terrifying but incredible spectacle to behold.
Amazon River Dolphin
Conservation Status: Endangered
Long thought of as the stuff of fairy tales. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that the existence of these gorgeous pink river dolphins was confirmed in the Amazon basin. Feeding on fish, crabs, and other river creatures, it is the pink color that makes the Amazon River Dolphin so popular with travelers. Tourists come from around the world hoping for a glimpse of these beautiful animals. Habitat loss is a threat to the dolphins, as is the accidental entanglement in fishing gear. Both pose a significant threat to the survival of the dolphins. Conservation work aims to slow deforestation in the rainforest to preserve the pristine freshwater habitat that the dolphins need.
Conservation Status: Slight Concern
The Mata Mata turtle has been the butt of some cruel jokes in Latin America for decades. Thanks to its strange and ugly appearance. Men in the Amazon region have long been using the term “mata mata” as an insult for women they find unattractive! Looking like a cross between a crocodile and a turtle, this freshwater species is common across the Amazon region. With a neck that stretches out further than other turtle species and a wide, flat head, it really is an odd-looking creature. Nature has an explanation though. The appearance of the mata mata can easily be confused for a rotting bit of foliage. This concealing trait assists the creature to blend into its surroundings and avoid predation.
Weird Animals in the Amazon Rainforest Recap
In the final analysis, the Amazon is home to perhaps the highest density of wildlife species to be found anywhere on Earth. So it’s not surprising that there are some oddballs in there too! Unfortunately, the Amazon is under siege, with illegal logging, mining, wildfires, and ever-encroaching cattle ranches all posing a threat to the creatures that live here. Conservation work is ongoing and the public mood does seem to be shifting. So let’s hope that the Amazon can still have a bright future, and all of these wonderful albeit weird animals in the Amazon Rainforest can thrive for many years to come.