Each year, the greatest river on Earth drowns beneath a vast steely mirror. Ribbons of jungle are all that remain to hint at another world beneath the surface. But as the floods of the wet season abate, waters start to fall. And as the Amazon begins to drain, the tops of the trees stretch into blue skies and feel fresh air for the first time in many weeks. In the annual battle for dominance between water and land, the forest now gains the upper hand. Whether high in the canopy, or on the forest floor far beneath, the withdrawal of the waters alters the face of the wilderness.
As the season redraws the map, animals stake their claims and patrol new boundaries. All across Amazonia, emerging environments are reclaimed. Streams are swallowed up by dry land. Summer scorches the earth as the waterworlds and their inhabitants are banished.
Featured Wildlife: Life on Land
Jaguar (Panthera onca)
Breeding occurs throughout the year, and when it does, jaguars undertake the task with the same intensity they use to hunt. A jaguar pair will mate up to 100 times a day, taking an average of nine seconds every time. But while mating jaguars are constant companions throughout breeding, they separate just as severely once mating is complete. The male jaguar will leave after two or three days, and plays no role in the upbringing of the cubs, which will not be born for three months.
Yellow-rumped Caciques (Cacicus cela)
Anaconda (Eunectes murinusis)
The way that the anaconda mates is as unusual as the way that it hunts. A female anaconda, some three to five times larger than the average male, lays an inviting chemical trail. When males respond to it, they do so in great numbers. The female and males, which can number as many as 13, entangle themselves in a mating ball, where they stay for two to four weeks. The female copulates with many of the males, though it is unclear whether more than one male is responsible for fertilizing the eggs. Eventually, the eggs hatch within the female's body, and six months later, she bears live young.
Black skimmer (Rynchops niger)
In addition, the black skimmer's eyes are well adapted to seeing at night, which is when the bird does most of its feeding. Many of the skimmer's favorite foods -- fish, worms and insects -- stay nearer to the surface of their river homes at night than during the daytime. Sadly, when parent skimmers leave their riverside nests to hunt, they leave their young chicks vulnerable to other predatory night feeding birds.
Vampire Bat (Desmodus rotundus)
The vampire bats found in Amazonia -- New World Vampire Bats -- are the only true vampire bats in the world, and like the mythological creature with which they are associated, they feed on blood. Everything about a vampire bat, from its padded thumbs to the way it flies, is designed to keep its movements silent. Silence is key for the vampire, for it allows it to land near or on its prey undetected. Food sources include many different kinds of mammals, man among them. Once a vampire is able, it uses its razor-sharp teeth to scoop out a small amount of its victim's skin -- enough to allow blood to flow. The vampire bat does not suck; instead, it laps up the blood, which will not clot thanks to an anticoagulant in the vampire bat's saliva.
Tapir (Tapirus terrestris)
Like all mammals, the tapir is unable to digest cellulose on its own, but thanks to a handy, symbiotic adaptation, the tapir is able to survive eating plants. Inside a pocket of its large intestine, the tapir harbors a host of microorganisms that help break down the cellulose found in plant material. Since it is an extremely slow and inefficient process, the tapir needs to eat all day long for its diet to be a significant source of energy. Much of what a tapir eats leaves its body undigested, including the seeds of plants. By depositing the seeds in its waste, the tapir plays an essential role in conserving the forest environment.
Journey into Amazonia
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