Amazonia is the world's largest tropical rainforest, spanning more than half of Brazil. Within the 2.5 million square miles of the Amazon Basin resides a wealth of life richer than anyplace else on earth, including 500 mammals, 175 different lizards, 300 other reptile species, tree climbers of every kind, and a third of the world's birds. Millions of species that remain undiscovered. How did this natural bounty come come to be?
To understand the origins of Amazonia, one needs to travel back in time some 15 million years to the formation of the Andes mountains. Until that time, the Amazon river flowed west, emptying into the Pacific Ocean. But when South America collided with another tectonic plate, the Andes formed, blocking the Amazon at its Pacific end. Inland seas, now cut off from the ocean, transformed into freshwater lakes, and the environment of the Amazon basin changed radically. The Amazon's flow gradually reversed, now flowing from west to east, until roughly 10 million years ago, the river reached the Atlantic.
The Amazon River is the lifeline of Amazonia, carrying an astounding 16 percent of all the river water in the world over its 6,500 miles. A fifth of all river water discharged into the world's oceans is conveyed through the Amazon, 10 times that of the Mississippi River.
Journey into Amazonia
play amazon explorer! | about the series | enter amazonia | waterworlds | life on land | the big top
powerful plants | sacred ground | teacher resources | web resources | site credits