Pacarana or “Count Branickii’s terrible mouse” (Dinomys branickii)
The first recorded sighting was in 1873. Weighing over 30 lbs, this large rodent is the only member of the family Dinomyidae. It may be closely related to some prehistoric giant rodents.
It is found in tropical areas like the Amazon River basin, Venezuela and Bolivia. Because of its weight, it is slow and heavy. It forages at night for fruits, leaves and stems. They usually live in pairs or groups of up to 5 individuals, but are sometimes found wandering alone. They communicate by stomping, chattering, singing and hissing.
Not much is known about these rodents, but they are thought to be Vulnerable, or soon to be Endangered.
The vast sandy channels and grassy flats of Brazil’s Amazon estuary may be the last, best hope for the beleaguered largetooth sawfish (Pristis pristis) in the Atlantic Ocean. The swimmer, known for its long, tooth-edged snout that looks like some alien saw blade, is one of the world’s most threatened marine creatures, a victim of overfishing and habitat loss.
Amazon Trip Yields Delightful and Surprising Reptile
by Richard Bartlett
The little dugout angled out of the river and approached our dock. In it sat a villager holding something at bay with one paddle while deftly maneuvering with another.
Mike was closest, and even before the boat touched shore, he was excited. And well he should have been, for unlike one of the more common snakes the villagers usually bring us, on the bottom of the boat was a two foot long creature clad in scales of tan that were arranged in annuli.
The villager lifted the creature gently on a paddle, and Mike soon had it in hand. About the diameter of a thumb, we were all soon staring intently at a fairly common but seldom seen, legless, burrower, a Giant Worm lizard (more correctly a Giant Amphisbaenid), Amphisbaena alba.
Besides lacking limbs, this intriguing creature lacks functional eyes. The scalation is arranged in prominent rings that give it the superficial appearance of a gigantic earthworm.
Amazonian butterflies drink turtles’ tears in order to get sodium, researchers say.
Turtle tears are not the only source of such salts for butterflies; the insects also readily get the salt from animal urine, muddy river banks, puddles, sweaty clothes and sweating people, said Geoff Gallice, a graduate student of entomology at the Florida Museum of Natural History…
Highly social Orinoco Geese can often be seen in pairs or family groups, with the male distinguishable only by his larger size.
Although technically shelducks (mid-sized waterfowl), they are named “goose” because of their heavy flight style. Orinoco Geese often take a flying hop to perch in tree branches, but beyond resting and nesting in tree cavities, the species is terrestrial in its habits. Most feeding is done in daytime in open areas near water, but this “goose” migrates almost exclusively during twilight or at night.
The Orinoco Goose is declining across much of its range due to hunting and habitat loss, but conservation measures are ongoing in a number of protected areas. One stronghold for the goose occurs in Beni, Bolivia, in an extensive, sparsely inhabited area of lakes, marshland, and seasonally flooded savannas.
Here, ABC’s partner Asociación Armonía protects habitat and has erected artificial nest boxes for the Orinoco Goose at the Barba Azul (Blue-throated Macaw) Reserve. Recent research by Lisa Davenport and colleagues has shown that although some of the Beni’s Orinoco Geese are resident breeders, others breed in Peru’s Manu National Park and fly long distances to stay in this part of Bolivia outside the breeding season…
Also known as the tropical shield mantis or leaf mantis, Stal’s hooded mantis is a species of shield mantis that is found in Brazil, Ecuador, French Guyana, Panama and Peru. Like other Hooded mantids C.stalli boasts an extended thorax which is used to mimic a leaf. When hunting they will take a flat stance and wait for a possible meal to come close, once in striking distance C.stalli will break its camouflage and catch its meal.
Choeradodis stallii nymphs are a bright red color and have a reduced hood.
Eco-Systems Still Feel the Pain of Ancient Extinctions
by Michael Marshall
It’s not just humans that still feel the effects of a trauma many years later: ecosystems do too. Thousands of years after human hunters wiped out big land animals like giant ground sloths, the ecosystems they lived in are still feeling the effects.
Many ecosystems rely on big animals to supply them with nutrients, mostly from dung. “If you remove the big animals from an ecosystem, you pretty much stop nutrients moving,” says Chris Doughty of the University of Oxford.
Doughty and colleagues simulated the distribution of phosphorus, a nutrient that plants need to grow, in the Amazon basin in South America. This area was once home to spectacularly large animals, including the elephant-like gomphotheres and giant ground sloths.
But 12,500 years ago, around the time humans moved into South America, these huge animals all died out, hit by a double whammy of being hunted and a changing climate. Nowadays the Amazon is still home to a huge diversity of animals. “But these extinctions cut out all the big animals,” says Doughty…
Also known as the short-eared fox or small-eared dog, the short-eared dog is a rare and unique species of canid that is endemic to the Amazonian basin in South America. Although it is sometimes called a fox the short-eared dog is no fox and it is more closely related to canids that crossed during the Great American Interchange to than to modern canids. Short-eared dogs are secretive and will inhabit a wide variety of forests. Their diet consists mostly of fish, insects and small mammals but they are known to eat fruit, reptiles, and birds as well.
Short-eared dogs are currently listed as near threatened and face threats from introduced and native competition, habitat degradation and disease.
Red-capped Cardinal (Paroaria gularis), Cardeal de Amazonia, Brazil
The Red-capped Cardinal is the most widely distributed of the genus Paroaria, it being widespread in the tropical lowlands east of the Andes… It is most commonly encountered in the vicinity of rivers and oxbow lakes, and is usually observed singly or in pairs, which frequently perch on branches in the water.
This red bird is the unusual ‘Cock-of-the-rock’, Peru’s national bird. The CREES team of researchers, wildlife photographers and biologists, based at the Manu Learning Centre in Manu, Madre de Dios region of the south eastern Amazon of Peru, have recorded more than 650 different species in the centre’s vicinity.
The list includes jaguars, giant river otters and 13 different types of primate. The work carried out at the centre helps to chart changes and problems that are causing the destruction of the rainforest and the biodiversity within it.